Prior Port Authority Chairman David Samson received a lenient sentence for his scheme to obtain more convenient United Airlines flights to his home in South Carolina. U.S. District Judge José Linares surprised federal prosecutors by issuing Mr. Samson a sentence of one year of confinement to his home, four years of probation and 3,600 hours of community service. Mr. Samson, who has previously served as New Jersey attorney general, will also have to pay a fine in the amount of $100,000, and wear a device that monitors his location.
He admitted in court that his conduct was wrongful, and that he violated the law. He also apologized to this family, friends and the public. However, the judge described the crime as ludicrous, and a total abuse of power. Nevertheless, the judge considered Mr. Samson’s public service and good deeds throughout his life, his age of 77, and his failing health.
In addition, he took into account the more than 40 letters of support from friends, associates, relatives and public officials. Furthermore, the judge mentioned that as a result of Mr. Samson’s actions, he has lost his law license and witnessed the removal of his name from the law firm he established. This represents a significant injury to his reputation.
But U.S. Attorney Paul Fishman, whose office had tried to convince the judge to sentence Mr. Samson to 24 months in prison, commented that the punishment was less harsh than what they desired. Mr. Samson entered a guilty plea to using his power as chairman of the Port Authority to compel United Airlines to comply with his request for the non-stop flight between Newark Liberty and Columbia, S.C. by delaying the airlines’ plans to construct a new maintenance hangar at Newark.
The issue was Mr. Samson’s wish for United to continue to have a convenient flight to his estate in Aiken, S.C. Long before he became chairman of the Port Authority, he used to travel to S.C. on a non-stop flight with Continental Airlines between Newark and Columbia, which was a brief drive to Aiken. However, Continental, which subsequently merged with United, suspended that route in 2009. As a result, Mr. Samson had to fly to Charlotte, which is a much longer drive to Aiken. Upon his appointment as chairman of the Port Authority, he started to use his influence to persuade United Airlines to restore the route from Newark to S. C.
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