New York case against Manafort dismissed in blow to pardon defense

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A judge dismissed New York's mortgage-fraud case against former Trump campaign chief Paul Manafort, undermining the state's effort to ensure that the jailed political adviser doesn't go free if he’s eventually pardoned for his federal crimes.

On Dec. 18, State Supreme Court Justice Maxwell Wiley granted Manafort's request to dismiss the charges because the state indictment overlaps with cases previously brought by Special Counsel Robert Mueller. Manafort is now serving a total 7 1/2-year prison term in two federal cases.

"We will appeal today's decision and will continue working to ensure that Mr. Manafort is held accountable for the criminal conduct against the people of New York," Danny Frost, a spokesman for Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr., said in a statement.

Manafort lawyers argued that New York's broad double-jeopardy law protects defendants from multiple prosecutions for the same conduct, even if they were charged in other jurisdictions or by different government authorities. They've suggested the New York case was politically motivated.

"We have said since the day this indictment was made public that it was politically motivated and violated New York's statutory double jeopardy law," Manafort's lawyers said in a statement. "This indictment should never have been brought, and today's decision is a stark reminder that the law and justice should always prevail over politically motivated actions."

Wiley, the state Supreme Court justice, concluded in a 26-page ruling that state prosecutors conceded the crimes charged in their indictment "are based upon the same acts and criminal transactions as those underlying the federal indictment." He noted that some of the counts brought by New York were similar to those in one of two federal prosecutions of Manafort in which a jury failed to reach a verdict, and called Manafort's case a "unique set of facts."

Wiley noted that U.S. District Judge T.S. Ellis III had permanently dismissed those deadlocked counts in March after Manafort reached a plea deal with the U.S., but said Ellis nevertheless considered the actions when determining Manafort’s sentence. Wiley concluded that Manafort could be viewed as having been previously prosecuted for "the same acts and criminal transactions as those underlying the federal indictment."

The state's argument that the dismissed federal charges had authorized New York to bring a new case "strains reason," Wiley wrote. "In fact, Judge Ellis expressed doubts that the hung counts could ever be resurrected — and added that was not 'his problem.' Such language can hardly be interpreted as authorizing a new prosecution.”

Manafort was convicted in August 2018 of lying to tax authorities about tens of millions of dollars he earned as a political consultant in Ukraine and misleading banks about his financial health to get loans. He later pleaded guilty to conspiring to lobby illegally for Ukraine, to launder money to support a lavish lifestyle, and to tamper with witnesses.

Manafort is in prison in Loretto, Pa., and isn't due to be released until Christmas Day 2024. He was hospitalized on Dec. 12 after a spike in his blood pressure that has been resolved, his attorney Kevin Downing said.

Bloomberg News
Mortgage fraud New York Donald Trump Financial crimes State regulators Enforcement actions