Official charged in United flight bribe case dies at age 62

LAMBERTVILLE, N.J. (AP) " A United Airlines lobbyist and longtime state official accused of conspiracy in a shakedown benefiting the former chairman of the agency that controls New York City-area airports has died.

Jamie Fox, who held numerous governmental posts during his career, died Monday at age 62, the Van Horn-McDonough Funeral Home said. The cause of his death was unavailable.

Fox was serving as a lobbyist for Chicago-based United Airlines when, federal prosecutors say, he helped then-Port Authority of New York and New Jersey chairman David Samson re-establish a regular flight to South Carolina, where Samson had a vacation home.

Samson pleaded guilty to bribery, admitting he pressured United to restart the money-losing flight from Newark to South Carolina so he could travel to his weekend home. He said he schemed with Fox to delay approvals on a project sought by United at Newark Liberty International Airport as a way of getting the airline to re-launch the flight, which insiders jokingly referred to as the Chairman's Flight.

Fox was charged with conspiracy to commit bribery, punishable by a maximum prison sentence of five years upon conviction. He had vowed to fight the allegations against him.

His attorney Michael Critchley had said he would never have jeopardized his reputation by engaging in illegal behavior.

Fox, a Democrat, served as transportation commissioner in the administrations of Democratic Gov. Jim McGreevey and Republican Gov. Chris Christie, who called him "one of the most outstanding public servants I have had the honor to know."

"Regardless of party politics, he stepped forward time and again in service to our state," Christie said in a statement Monday.

Samson, a mentor to Christie, faces up to two years in prison. His sentencing had been scheduled for January but was pushed back until March.

United, the dominant carrier at the Newark airport, discontinued the flight days after Samson resigned from the Port Authority in March 2014. United's CEO and two other high-ranking officials were forced out over their dealings with Samson, and the company agreed to pay more than $2 million in civil penalties.

Christie last year praised Samson and Fox, calling Fox "a very worthwhile and worthy public servant" who "has been convicted of absolutely nothing." He said he was saddened by Samson's guilty plea but called him "an extraordinary person" who "obviously had a lapse in judgment."

This story has been automatically published from the Associated Press wire which uses US spellings

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