In case prosecutors didn’t get the message from previous corruption rulings, the U.S. Supreme Court’s Thursday decision unanimously nixing the “Bridgegate” convictions serves as a stark reminder that not every misdeed by a public official amounts to a crime, no matter how unsavory the politics, experts said.
Robert A. Mintz of McCarter & English LLP, a former federal prosecutor, said the court is concerned about criminalizing political behavior, even conduct it may view as unsavory.
“The implicit message here is that type of conduct should be left to the voters to deal with, rather than the courts,” Mintz said. “What the court is saying here is that a purely political motive is simply not enough to criminalize even deceitful political behavior.”
The court’s message is that “hardball politics, even instances where corruption and abuse of power may be clear, cannot be turned into a federal crime unless the public official’s dishonesty was aimed at obtaining money or property,” he said.