Manafort Can’t Face New York Charges After Trump Pardon, Court Rules

Paul Manafort is in the clear at last.

Almost four years after Donald Trump’s campaign chairman was targeted by Special Counsel Robert Mueller, and about two years after state prosecutors charged him, Manafort is finally free of the threat of jail. The government’s scrutiny of Manafort ended when New York state’s top appeals court issued a ruling that effectively means Manafort can’t be prosecuted by Manhattan’s district attorney.

The Feb. 4 ruling by the New York Court of Appeals ends DA Cyrus Vance Jr.’s attempt to bring a “pardon-proof” case against Manafort.

Manafort was convicted of federal financial-crime and illegal-lobbying charges and sentenced in 2019 to 7 1/2 years in prison. But as Vance and others anticipated, Trump in December pardoned Manafort.

Because presidential pardons only apply to federal crimes, Manafort still had to confront Vance’s case, which alleged mortgage fraud and other crimes. Two lower courts in New York had previously ruled that Vance’s case was so similar to the federal case that it was barred by the so-called double-jeopardy law -- that is, the rules against prosecuting a person twice for the same crime.

In its order last week, the Court of Appeals, without explanation, said it wouldn’t hear Vance’s appeal of the lower court decision.

“As we have said from the time the district attorney announced charges against Mr. Manafort, this is a case that should never have been brought because the dismissed indictment is a clear violation of New York law,” Manafort’s attorney Todd Blanche said in an email. As lower courts ruled, Vance’s arguments “‘fall far short’ of triggering an exception to double jeopardy that would justify this prosecution,” he said.

The New York Times first reported the court’s decision on Monday.

When Trump pardoned Manafort in December, he was serving his sentence at home.

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