Kushner Ally Pardoned by Trump Is Charged by New York Prosecutor
(Bloomberg) -- Former New York Observer editor-in-chief Ken Kurson, who was pardoned by Donald Trump in his last days as president over cyberstalking allegations, was charged with similar crimes by state prosecutors in Manhattan.
“We will not accept presidential pardons as get-out-of-jail-free cards for the well-connected in New York,” said Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance in a statement announcing the charges. Kurson is a close friend of Trump’s son-in-law and former senior White House aide Jared Kushner, who previously owned the Observer.
Kurson, 52, was arraigned Wednesday on eavesdropping and computer trespass charges, both felonies that carry a maximum of four years in prison. New York prosecutors allege that, from September 2015 to March 2016, he installed spyware on a computer belonging to his ex-wife to obtain passwords to her accounts, and then accessed and anonymously distributed private Facebook messages.
He was similarly charged with cyberstalking by Brooklyn federal prosecutors in October. Kurson was among dozens of people Trump granted clemency to in January, including his former strategist Steve Bannon, the rapper Lil Wayne and former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick. The White House claimed the criminal investigation “only began because Mr. Kurson was nominated to a role within the Trump administration.”
Kurson didn’t enter a plea at Wednesday’s arraignment in Manhattan Supreme Court. He was released on his own recognizance, and his lawyer, Marc Mukasey, didn’t have an immediate comment on the charges.
This isn’t the first time that Vance has sought to circumvent a presidential pardon. His office brought charges against Paul Manafort in 2019 out of concern that Trump might pardon his former campaign chairman. Trump did pardon Manafort, but New York’s top court ruled in February that Vance’s case ran afoul of double jeopardy concerns.
Bloomberg News reported in March that Vance and New York Attorney General Letitita James have been investigating Bannon, who was facing federal charges that he defrauded donors to the supposedly nonprofit “We Build The Wall” campaign for personal gain.
Kurson, an adviser to Rudy Giuliani’s 2008 presidential campaign, was accused by federal prosecutors of stalking and harassing three people in 2015, using the aliases “Jayden Wagner” and “Eddie Train.”
The allegations came to light during a background check of Kurson, who served as editor of the Observer from 2013 to 2017, after the Trump administration offered him a position with a federal agency. Kushner bought the paper in 2006 but transferred ownership to a family trust after his father-in-law became president.
The New York Times reported in 2018 that Kurson had been offered a position at the National Endowment for the Humanities, a federal organization that distributes grants to museums, libraries and cultural institutions. Kurson withdrew his consideration shortly afterward, the Times said, after the FBI uncovered allegations that he had harassed a doctor at Mount Sinai Hospital who had been friends with Kurson and his wife before their divorce.
Vance said Wednesday, “As alleged in the complaint, Mr. Kurson launched a campaign of cybercrime, manipulation, and abuse from his perch at the New York Observer, and now the people of New York will hold him accountable.”
©2021 Bloomberg L.P.