Former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort is escorted into court for his arraignment in New York Supreme Court, June 27, 2019.
Lucas Jackson | Reuters
A judge on Wednesday dismissed New York state criminal charges filed against Paul Manafort, the fallen Republican lobbyist who served for several months as President Donald Trump‘s campaign chief in 2016, thwarting an effort to keep Manafort behind bars even if Trump ends up pardoning him for federal crimes.
Judge Maxwell Wiley said during a hearing in Manhattan Supreme Court that New York’s double-jeopardy law barred the state indictment against Manafort, 70, which accused him of mortgage fraud, conspiracy and falsifying business records.
Double jeopardy prevents a defendant from being prosecuted twice separately for the same criminal conduct.
Manafort’s lawyer, Todd Blanche, had argued that the state charges were barred because they related to mortgage applications that were the subject of Manafort’s federal trial last year.
Wednesday’s dismissal was a blow to Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr., who had lodged the case against Manafort immediately after he was sentenced to a seven-and-a-half-year prison term earlier this year for federal financial crimes related to his consulting work for a pro-Russia political party in Ukraine.
Vance’s spokesman said, “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 that is alleged in the indictment.”
Vance’s prosecution was seen as a way to guarantee that Manafort would remain punished for his crimes.
Although Trump has the power to pardon Manafort, and other people, for committing federal crimes, a president cannot pardon people for violating state criminal statutes.
Manafort was not in court when the state case was tossed out.
He suffered a medical issue last week at the federal prison in Pennsylvania where he is serving his sentence.
This is a breaking news story. Check back for updates.