MANHATTAN (CN) — A judge agreed Wednesday to dismiss New York's criminal indictment of the already incarcerated former Trump campaign chief Paul Manafort.
Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Maxwell Wiley announced the decision at a hearing this morning, nixing a 16-count indictment that accused 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.
“The People have failed to establish that the harm or evil each statute is designed to prevent is different in kind from the federal statutes for which defendant was previously prosecuted,” Wiley’s 26-page opinion states.
New York’s indictment was widely seen as a measure to continue incarcerating Manafort even in the event that President Donald Trump pardons him of the federal crimes for which he is serving a 7 1/2-year prison sentence. A presidential pardon can waive federal crimes, but not state offenses.
Manafort challenged the charges, however, under New York’s double-jeopardy rules and moved to dismiss on those grounds three months ago.
Todd Blanche, an attorney for Manafort, praised the dismissal of the charges.
“We have said since the day this indictment was made public that it was politically motivated and violated New York’s statutory double jeopardy law,” Blanche said in a statement after Wednesday’s hearing.
“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,” he added.
Blanche previously anticipated this outcome, telling reporters at Manafort's June arraignment: “In our view, the laws of New York will not allow the People do what they did in this case."
The New York charges took issue with Manafort's mortgage applications to two banks, but this evidence had been central to Manafort’s federal trial last year in the Eastern District of Virginia.
Not oblivious that this challenge was coming, the New York State Assembly approved an 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.
Manafort himself did not attend Wednesday’s brief hearing in Manhattan Criminal Court, having been hospitalized after suffering what his lawyer described as heart ailment earlier this week in prison.
Blanche also currently represents Igor Fruman, one of the two associates of Rudy Giuliani facing a federal indictment in Manhattan.
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