The New York State Court of Appeals has rejected the Manhattan District Attorney’s bid to bring criminal charges against Paul Manafort after he was pardoned by then-President Donald Trump.
The decision from Chief Judge Janet DiFiore came out discreetly last Thursday and proved to be the blow to D.A. Cyrus Vance’s efforts to try Trump’s former campaign chairman. The case had been dismissed by Manhattan Supreme Court after the judge sided with the defense’s argument of double jeopardy and the subsequent appeals courts confirmed the ruling.
Manafort’s attorney Todd Blanche rejoiced over the final decision.
“As the trial court held, and the Appellate Division affirmed, the People’s arguments ‘fall far short’ of triggering an exception to double jeopardy that would justify this prosecution,” said Blanche, “We are pleased that the New York Court of Appeals saw no reason to give leave to the District Attorney to appeal the well-reasoned prior decision dismissing the indictment and the Appellate Division’s opinion affirming the same.”
The Manhattan DA’s office declined to comment.
Vance indicted Manafort in March 2019 while he was already serving 7 1/2 years in federal prison for violating campaign finance laws. Manafort’s trial in 2018 was carried out by prosecutors for Special Counsel for the Department of Justice Robert Mueller. But state charges would be out of his jurisdiction, so the Manhattan D.A. charged Manafort with similar fraud crimes. By December 2019, a New York State Supreme Court judge would side with Manafort’s defense granting his motion to dismiss the case on double jeopardy grounds.
The double jeopardy clause in the U.S. Constitution prevents a defendant from being prosecuted for the same crime twice.
“Given the rather unique set of facts pertaining to the defendant’s previous prosecution in federal court, and given New York’s law on this subject, defendant’s motion to dismiss the indictment as barred by state double jeopardy must be granted,” Judge Maxwell Wiley justified his decision back then.
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo recently passed a law that opened a state loophole of this presumption, permitting that state prosecutors can indict on similar charges even if defendants receive federal pardons, but it did not make it in time to apply to Manafort.
In a somewhat similar situation is the former White House’s chief strategist for the Trump administration, Stephen Bannon. The former political operative, who was also pardoned by Trump on federal charges, is now said to be under investigation by Vance’s office, according to a recent report by the Washington However, if indicted Bannon will not be as lucky as Manafort since he was never tried neither convicted by a court.