Paul Manafort, US President Donald Trump‘s former campaign chairman, on Wednesday, won the dismissal of New York state charges of residential mortgage fraud and other crimes, after arguing that the indictment illegally subjected him to being prosecuted twice for the same crime.
Justice Maxwell Wiley of the state Supreme Court in Manhattan cited double jeopardy at a hearing in dismissing the indictment brought by Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance.
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“Obviously, we are very happy,” Manafort lawyer Todd Blanche said in an interview after the ruling, which the judge delivered from the bench.
“This indictment should never have been brought, and today’s decision is a stark reminder that the law and justice should always prevail over politically motivated actions,” Blanche added, reading from a statement.
Prosecutors were not immediately available to comment.
Manafort, who is serving a federal prison sentence, did not attend the hearing. He had been admitted to hospital last week for what Blanche characterised as a cardiac incident.
Manafort, 70, is serving a seven-and-a-half-year sentence at a federal prison in Pennsylvania for tax fraud, bank fraud and other charges stemming from Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 US presidential election.
Manafort had pleaded not guilty in June to the 16-felony-count indictment announced three months earlier by Vance.
The charges focused on Manafort’s alleged efforts to obtain millions of dollars in real estate loans, centring on mortgage applications to three banks involving properties in Manhattan, Brooklyn, the Hamptons on New York state’s Long Island, and California.
These loans underlay some of the federal cases against Manafort in Virginia that led to his prison sentence, and Manafort argued that the US Constitution and New York state law forbade the state prosecution on double jeopardy grounds.
In a 26-page decision, Wiley said a central issue was whether the nature of Manafort’s federal prosecution entitled Vance to invoke an exception to New York’s “rather broad” double jeopardy prohibition.
“Given the rather unique set of facts pertaining to 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 law must be granted,” Wiley wrote.
Mueller’s team had accused Manafort of hiding $16m from US tax authorities that he earned as a consultant for pro-Russian politicians in Ukraine, and then lying to banks to obtain loans and maintain a luxurious lifestyle.
Manafort could have faced up to 25 years in prison if convicted on the most serious state charges.
The case had been widely viewed as an attempt to ensure that Manafort spent a long time in prison even if Trump pardoned him in the federal case. Trump cannot pardon people for state crimes.
Manafort worked on Trump’s White House campaign for five months in 2016.