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David Samson to plead guilty

15 July 2016

Samson admitted that when he was chairman of the Port Authority of NY and New Jersey, he took part in a conspiracy with United Airlines, which started up a flight from Newark Airport to Columbia, South Carolina, near his vacation home. Before stepping down in March 2014 amid scrutiny over the Bridgegate scandal, David Samson spent three years as the chairman of the Port Authority of NY and New Jersey.

At a September 2011 dinner with four United employees including a "senior executive" from the airline's Chicago headquarters who had power to approve routes, the Port Authority official, who is unnamed but is clearly Samson, mentioned that United should fly between Newark and Columbia, South Carolina.

As a result of company and federal investigations, United ousted CEO Jeff Smisek and two other top executives last September. It was known within United as "the chairman's flight", referring to Samson's title with the agency, according to the court documents. In July 2016, he pleaded guilty to knowingly and corruptly soliciting and accepting a thing of value - namely non-stop flights from United Airlines to his vacation home in SC - and faces sentencing in October.

The Bridgegate scandal hung over Christie's failed Republican presidential bid and continues to cast a shadow as he is among those being considered as a vice presidential running mate for the November 8 election by presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump.

United executives subsequently told Samson that the route will not be profitable, but Samson used his official authority to pressure United to re-establish flights. Under the terms of the plea agreement, he faces a maximum prison term of 24 months. Samson was Christie's so-called transition chairman - a political insider who helps plan a new administration and often lands a plum post if his candidate wins.

Samson also voted for a $250 million renovation to a PATH train station in Harrison months after another client of his firm proposed building high-end condos within walking distance of the station, The Record reported.

The flight was canceled days after Samson resigned in 2014.

The bridge investigation, combined with an earlier audit that called the Port Authority "challenged and dysfunctional", trained a spotlight on the powerful agency and eventually led to questions about Samson's interactions with United Airlines.

U.S. Attorney Paul Fishman has announced a news conference for 2 p.m. Thursday outside United States District Court in Newark following a court proceeding.

Samson said in a statement released by the firm that he was retiring for "personal, professional and health reasons". The airline also wanted an extension of the Port Authority Trans-Hudson train to Newark airport, which would have provided a one-seat ride to passengers from Lower Manhattan.

Oscar Munoz, a former railroad executive, who was chosen to succeed Smisek, said United would try to earn and keep the trust of workers, customers, shareholders and communities.