Manafort Cannot Be Prosecuted After Trump Pardon, New York Court docket Guidelines
The Manhattan District Attorney’s attempt to prosecute former President Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign chairman was met with a final blow when the New York Supreme Court silently stated last week that it would not review the decisions of the lower courts on the case .
The court’s ruling puts an end to the district attorney’s efforts to ensure that campaign chairman Paul J. Manafort is charged with mortgage fraud and other state crimes. These crimes are similar to those for which he was convicted in federal court and subsequently pardoned by Mr. Trump.
When District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance Jr., a Democrat, first indicted Mr Manafort in March 2019, it was common knowledge that he did so to ensure that Mr Manafort would be prosecuted even if Mr Trump decided to leave him to forgive.
At the time, Mr. Manafort was serving a seven and a half year sentence in a Pennsylvania federal prison after being convicted on a 2018 financial fraud case by prosecutors who worked for Special Adviser Robert S. Mueller III.
In October, a New York appeals court found that Mr. Vance’s efforts to bring Mr. Manafort to justice were in violation of the state’s double risk law. Mr. Vance took the case to the appeals court.
Then, in December, Mr. Trump apologized to Mr. Manafort, 71, who was released from detention center in Northern Virginia after his lawyers argued that he was at risk of contracting the coronavirus.
A Mr. Manafort attorney, Todd Blanche, said he received the Supreme Court’s one-paragraph ruling on Monday and was satisfied with the verdict. “Mr. Manafort is similarly pleased with the result,” he said.
A spokesman for Mr. Vance’s office declined to comment.
The indictment Mr Vance brought against Mr Manafort came as a result of an investigation opened in 2017 into loans received by the campaign chairman. Mr. Vance eventually accused Mr. Manafort of forging business records in order to obtain the loans.
At the time, Mr. Vance said that Mr. Manafort was not “held accountable” for the charges at hand. In a December 2019 ruling, a judge threw back the charges, finding that they violated the Double At Risk Act, which prevents a defendant from being tried twice for the same offense.
The judge, Judge Maxwell Wiley, said at the time that “New York State’s double exposure law provides a very narrow window to law enforcement.”
Mr. Vance’s office has taken action against other Mr. Trump employees whom the former president has pardoned in federal cases. Last week, the New York Times reported that Manhattan prosecutors had opened an investigation into Stephen K. Bannon, a former White House strategist who was pardoned by Mr Trump during the last presidential term.
However, dual security is unlikely to help Mr Bannon in the same way as Mr Manafort, since Mr Bannon has not yet been tried or even convicted.
“I do not believe that the basis for the inappropriateness of the prosecution applies in any way to Mr Bannon,” said Mr Blanche.
While the U.S. Constitution goes on trial twice for the same crime, the Supreme Court has long ruled that there is an exception: federal and state prosecutions for the same conduct are allowed because the federal government and states are understood as independent sovereigns. In 2019, the court upheld this exception.
That year, New York lawmakers passed a move that lawmakers deemed necessary to review Mr Trump’s pardon and ensure his employees were not allowed to escape justice. The law, signed by Governor Andrew M. Cuomo in October 2019, allows prosecutors to bring charges against those who have been granted a presidential pardon for similar crimes.
Senator Todd Kaminsky, a Democrat and former federal attorney who sponsored the bill, said the Manafort case brought home the need for legislation.
“It really underscored why we needed to legislate to let states go their own way, even if there was a federal pardon,” he said. The law would make it easier for prosecutors to prosecute those on Mr Trump’s pardon list.
The law was passed too late to apply to the case of Mr Manafort. The result, Mr. Kaminsky said, was that Mr. Vance’s office had to drag to show that the acts Mr. Manafort charged in federal court were not the same as those that persecuted them.
It is possible, but unlikely, that Mr Manafort will continue to be under federal charges. Last month, Andrew Weissmann, a former attorney with the law firm, argued that the wording of Mr. Trump’s pardons was “oddly” worded.
Instead of exempting those who had been pardoned from any possible liability for their actions, Mr. Weissmann argued, the language only narrowly covered their beliefs.
In Mr. Manafort’s case, this could leave the door open to new charges, including crimes which Mr. Manafort has pleaded guilty to. This includes 10 cases of financial crimes as well as other criminal offenses.
William K. Rashbaum contributed to the coverage.