New York State Ends Case Against Paul Manafort

( Paul Manafort, who served as former President Donald Trump’s campaign chair in 2016, will not face another round of prosecution in New York.

Trump pardoned Manafort while he was still in office. Recently, the state affirmed that the federal and state charges against him would constitute double jeopardy.

In 2019, Manafort was sentenced to over nine years in prison. He was charged with witness tampering, financial crimes and unregistered lobbying. The charges came about as part of the probe of Special Counsel Robert Mueller.

In a move that was procedural at the time, the district attorney in Manhattan, Cyrus Vance, filed similar financial charges against Manafort in New York state. Many believe he did so in case Trump were to eventually pardon his friend — which he did. The thinking was that it would serve as insurance in case of the pardon, since a presidential pardon doesn’t apply to any state crimes.

The problem for Vance, though, was exactly this timing.

Maxwell Wiley, a justice for the New York state Supreme Court, threw out those state charges against Manafort recently. In his ruling, he said “the law of double jeopardy in New York State provides a very narrow window for prosecution.”

Vance tried his hand with the Court of Appeals in the state, which is the highest court in New York. Last week, that court declined to hear the case, though, ending Vance’s hopes for another conviction of Manafort.

The charges Vance was bringing against Manafort were very similar to the federal ones he was convicted for. They are mortgage fraud and other charges that constitute felonies in New York.

In December, Trump pardoned Manafort, who was serving his sentence under home confinement in Virginia. His lawyers successfully argued that their 71-year-old client was a high risk for contracting COVID-19 and having an adverse reaction while he was in jail.

In 2017, Vance began an investigation into Manafort and loans he had received. Manafort was eventually officially charged by the state with falsifying business records so that he could then obtain those loans.

Vance is no stranger to going after Trump and his associates. Prosecutors in Manhattan recently opened an investigation into Steve Bannon, the former White House strategist who Trump pardoned in his final hours in the White House.

The one main difference in this particular case is that Trump pardoned Bannon before he had been tried for his crime. He hadn’t been convicted like Manafort had.

As Todd Blanche, one of the lawyers for Manafort, said:

“The basis for the prosecution being improper doesn’t in any way apply to Mr. Bannon as far as I can tell.”

Double jeopardy prevents people from having to face trials for the same crime twice. The only exception is if a federal government and state government bring similar charges because they are considered independent sovereigns.

The problem in the New York case, though, is the state passed a law that would’ve allowed them to try Manafort for his crimes too late. As a result, Vance would’ve had to show that the crimes he was charging Manafort with were different than the federal charges — and he obviously couldn’t do that.