Former Port Authority Chairman David Samson could face up to two years in jail after pleading guilty to a corruption charge for strong-arming United Airlines into running a direct flight from Newark Liberty Airport to South Carolina, so he could get to his vacation home more easily.

Also charged in the case is former United Airlines lobbyist Jamie Fox — who among his several public positions had been a Chris Christie appointee, as the state's commissioner of transporation.

He is facing a charge of conspiracy to commit bribery for allegedly helping to orchestrate the scheme.

After announcing the Samson guilty plea and the charge against Fox, U.S. Attorney for New Jersey Paul Fishman said the case was very disturbing.

He noted Samson and Fox “have respectively held many positions in public life. Of course aside from serving as the Chairman of the Port Authority, Mr. Samson held the position as our state’s attorney general, and he was a founder and leading partner in one of the state’s leading law firms.”

He also said “among other positions, Mr. Fox was the commissioner of transportation in two different administrations, the deputy executive director of the Port Authority, the chief of staff for a governor and a United States senator.”

David Matthau, Townsquare Media
David Matthau, Townsquare Media

Fishman said “for me is what makes this case so significant and sad, they both should have known better, they both did know better, and this kind of conduct, their conduct shakes public confidence in our institutions of government when people who are so accomplished and have occupied so many positions of public trust misuse their authority to get something for themselves.”

He also said “it’s a betrayal of our trust, and what we have the right to expect from those in public life, it breeds more life into the cynical view that people in government are all corrupt. It makes the job of every honest employee just that much harder. It was an unacceptable use of public authority and it was criminal.”

Fishman went on to say “I hate it, because I think we have a right to expect better of people, to demand really that the people who take an oath of office to serve the public do exactly that. David Samson was a major figure in legal community of this state, and I’m sad that someone of his stature and his intellect and someone of his talent basically gave in to this temptation.”

Tim Gallagher, special agent in charge of the FBI in Newark, said investigating public corruption is the top investigative priority of the FBI.

“It’s different from most other crimes in that it strikes at the heart of good government but also jeopardizes the security of our communities and our nation,” he said. “Public corruption erodes public confidence and diminishes the strength of our democracy.”

He said many investigations begin with a tip from an individual or from a company that may be the victim of a public corruption scheme, and “it doesn’t matter if the corruption scheme is national or local in scope, there is no acceptable level of public corruption, the American public won’t stand for it.”

Video above from New Jersey 101.5's "Ask the Governor," September 2015

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