Paul Manafort New York fraud case: Court ends prosecutor’s bid to sidestep Trump pardon

The case brought by District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance Jr. was dismissed on double-jeopardy grounds in 2019 and again on appeal last year, but prosecutors in Manhattan had hoped the New York Court of Appeals would entertain their argument that the state indictment was sufficiently different from Manafort’s federal bank fraud case.

The court’s order, first reported Monday by the New York Times, was issued quietly last week by Chief Judge Janet DiFiore.

“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 lawyer, Todd Blanche, said in a statement Monday. “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.

A spokesman for Vance declined to comment. Separately, his office is conducting a wide-ranging criminal investigation of Trump’s business activities and, as The Washington Post first reported last week, is said to be exploring whether to bring a case against another of the former president’s past advisers, Stephen K. Bannon.

The district attorney brought his case against Manafort in early 2019, after his federal convictions in the 2016 election-interference investigation overseen by special counsel Robert S. Mueller III. From the outset, it was seen as a bid by Vance, who is a Democrat, to backstop Manafort’s prosecution in Washington and Virginia — a move that anticipated that Trump would pardon his ally, which he did in late December, ending Manafort’s 7½-year sentence.

Manafort, 71, had been incarcerated in Pennsylvania but was released to home confinement last year as the coronavirus swept through the nation’s jails and prisons, prompting a wave of compassionate-release orders.

It is rare for the state’s highest court to agree to hear a dispute of this nature. It is typically done only if case law is unsettled, and legal experts who followed Manafort’s case have said they believed the application of double-jeopardy law was quite clear. Other legal minds disagreed, expressing that the district attorney had a viable case.

A spokesman for the court, Gary Spencer, said it denies the vast majority of applications in criminal cases.