Ex-Trump Aide Paul Manafort Can’t Be Prosecuted in New York Following Pardon, Court Rules

February 9, 2021 Updated: February 9, 2021

New York’s top court has ruled that former President Donald Trump’s onetime campaign chairman Paul Manafort cannot be prosecuted on a state level for financial crimes similar to the ones pardoned by Trump.

On Feb. 4, the New York Court of Appeals upheld a lower order from October 2020 that found Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance’s attempt to charge Manafort with mortgage fraud and other felonies violated the state’s so-called double jeopardy law, which bars prosecutors from pursuing crimes that have already been tried on a federal level.

Trump on Dec. 23 pardoned Manafort, who was among several Trump associates who faced charges as a result of former special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into alleged Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. He worked on Trump’s White House campaign for five months in 2016.

The White House announced that Manafort’s sentence stemmed from convictions prosecuted in Mueller’s investigation, which was “premised on the Russian collusion hoax.”

Trump’s pardoning of Manafort spared the long-time Republican operative from serving the bulk of his prison term of seven-and-a-half years.

Paul Manafort released
Paul Manafort arrives at a court in New York in a June 27, 2019 file photo. (Seth Wenig/(AP Photo)

However, presidential pardons only cover federal crimes.

Vance—who is also investigating the Trump Organization over allegations of fraud—charged Manafort in 2019 with state crimes in a deliberate attempt to make sure he would be prosecuted in the event that the former president pardoned him.

The Manhattan district attorney aggressively fought the case in court after Manafort’s attorneys sought to have it dismissed on double jeopardy grounds.

Manafort’s lawyer Todd Blanche said he was pleased by the ruling, which will ensure the former Trump campaign chairman will remain a free man.

“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,” said Blanche. “This is a case that should never have been brought because the dismissed indictment is a clear violation of New York law.”

“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,” the attorney added, The Hill reported. “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.”

Mimi Nguyen Ly and The Associated Press contributed to this report.