Manafort Pleads Not Guilty to State Charges of Mortgage Fraud

Paul Manafort, President Trump’s former campaign manager, arrives in court Thursday is to be arraigned on New York mortgage fraud charges. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

MANHATTAN (CN) – Already convicted federally on a host of financial crimes, former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort pleaded not guilty Thursday to related criminal charges by New York authorities.

Manafort, 70, arrived to New York Supreme Court at 6:30 this morning, front-handcuffed and dressed in navy-blue prison garb with a leather transport belt at his waist. At a brief arraignment some eight hours later, he entered his plea before Judge Maxwell Wiley.

Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance unveiled the 16 criminal counts against Manafort in March, accusing the former lobbyist of falsifying business records to illegally obtain millions of dollars of dollars in loans on New York properties between 2015 and 2017.

In addition to conspiracy, Manafort faces multiple counts of residential mortgage fraud, attempted residential mortgage fraud, scheme to defraud and falsifying business records.

Manafort is already serving 7 1/2 years in prison following a criminal trial in Virginia and a plea deal in Washington. He was recently transferred from a federal prison in Loretto, Pennsylvania, to the Manhattan Detention Complex in lower Manhattan for the state case.

“No one is beyond the law in New York,” Vance declared March, making Manafort’s indictment public less than an hour after a federal judge lengthened the prison sentence.

Media outlets have speculated that Vance’s state charges serve as assurance against any federal pardons that Manafort expects from the president. 

Talking to reporters outside the courthouse, Manafort’s attorney Todd Blanche said the charges violate New York’s double-jeopardy rules and that he intends to bring a motion to dismiss.

“In our view, the laws of New York will not allow the People do what they did in this case,” Blanche told reporters, noting that the mortgage applications to two banks were also central to Manafort’s federal trial last year.

Not oblivious that this challenge was coming, the New York State Assembly approved amendment last month to plug the so-called double-jeopardy loophole in the state’s criminal procedure law. 

The amendment established a narrow set of criteria that would prevent a presidential pardon from being used for the president’s self-interest and self dealing.  

Judge Wiley set Oct. 9 as the date for the next court appearance.

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