‘Chairman’s Flight’ Lobbyist Gets Bail in N.J. Bribery Case

  • Jamie Fox released on $100,000 bond at court appearance
  • Fox helped arrange flight for Port Authority Chairman Samson

A former New Jersey power broker and lobbyist for United Airlines was released on $100,000 bond during his first court appearance since being charged last month with illegally helping to arrange a special flight for a top government official.

Jamie Fox, 61, appeared Wednesday in federal court in Newark, where he is accused of taking part in a bribery conspiracy that led United to run twice-weekly flights for the convenience of David Samson, then chairman of the Port Authority of New York & New Jersey. Fox was never taken into custody after he was charged on July 14.

Samson, 76, pleaded guilty that day to bribery for pressuring United to restore a money-losing route between Newark Liberty International Airport and Columbia, South Carolina, near a home he owns. The favor became known as “the chairman’s flight,” and it led United Continental Holdings Inc. to pay $2.25 million to avoid prosecution.

Fox, who was charged by criminal complaint, didn’t speak during the five-minute hearing before U.S. District Judge Jose Linares and declined to comment after it concluded. Prosecutors will now take the case to a grand jury for possible indictment.

‘Aggressively Fight’

Fox served as the transportation commissioner for New Jersey Governor Chris Christie after working as a consultant and lobbyist for United. His attorney, Michael Critchley, declined to comment on Wednesday. After Fox was charged, he said in a statement that his client understood the flight was “fully vetted and completely appropriate.”

In the statement, he said: “Despite suffering from multiple, serious illnesses that are ongoing and have consumed him for the last year, Jamie Fox has always been a fighter and will aggressively fight these charges. Jamie will not let this unfair stain to be the last word on his distinguished career.”

Prosecutors said Samson first asked for the flight at a Manhattan dinner in September 2011, when airline executives sought Port Authority approval of several projects, including a wide-body jet hangar using $10 million in public money.

When United later balked at resuming the flight, Fox and Samson pressured and bullied airline executives, according to the criminal complaint against Fox.

“I hope they dance to my tune -- let me know if there’s a way to keep the pressure on this issue: it will save me a lot of heartache,” Samson e-mailed to Fox two weeks after the dinner.

Flight Pressure

Fox told United executives that the airline’s economic interests involving the Port Authority could be harmed unless it reinstated the flight, according to the complaint. Samson pressured the airline in November 2011 by pulling the hangar proposal from a Port Authority meeting agenda.

“Yes, it’s already off this month’s agenda: I hate myself,” Samson e-mailed to Fox.

United relented, and then Chief Executive Officer Jeffrey Smisek approved the flight, according to the complaint. The Port Authority approved the hangar.

Samson flew 27 times on the route, which operated from September 2012 to March 2014. Smisek and two other top United executives resigned last year amid an internal investigation.

The case is U.S. v. Fox, 16-mj-8085, U.S. District Court, District of New Jersey (Newark).

Before it's here, it's on the Bloomberg Terminal.