NY Appeals Court Scrutinizes Bid to Revive Manafort Case

Paul Manafort arrives in court in New York City on June 27, 2019. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

(CN) — A New York appeals court appeared skeptical on Friday morning about reviving Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance’s fraud prosecution of Paul Manafort, whose similar federal charges led to claims of double jeopardy. 

In December, Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Maxwell Wiley dismissed Vance’s case against Manafort as a rehash of the Justice Department’s prosecution. 

“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 wrote last year. 

Vance argues that the charges are different because there is no federal mortgage fraud law, which is charged repeatedly in his 16-count indictment accusing Manafort of falsifying business records to illegally obtain millions of dollars in loans on New York properties between 2015 and 2017. 

Judge Jeffrey Oing, one of four members hearing the case for New York’s Appellate Division, First Department, questioned that proposition. 

“They’ve got enough to get an indictment, and they’re doing a pivot to get to the double jeopardy,” Oing said of Vance’s prosecutors.  

Manafort’s attorney Todd Blanche called the case a clear-cut win for his client. 

“At the end of the day, there are hard cases and there are easy cases, but this is not a hard case,” Blanche said as he concluded his arguments. 

None of the judges questioned that remark. 

Manafort’s state charges have been perceived widely as insurance against a presidential pardon, allowing New York to keep him in jail if the White House sets him free. 

New York passed legislation to stave off that possibility in May 2019. Vance’s counsel Valerie Figueredo has argued the newly heightened restrictions to the application of double jeopardy protect their case. 

In his dismissal of the case, Judge Wiley reasoned that New York’s residential mortgage fraud statute arose from the 2008 financial meltdown to avert another crisis. Comparing New York’s statute with the federal bank fraud statute, Wiley found that they were aimed at preventing the same harms.  

Appellate Judge Ellen Gesmer seemed to agree.  

“It seems here that both of the statutes here address that,” Gesmer said. 

Judges Dianne Renwick and Sallie Manzanet-Daniels also sat on the panel, which did not immediately issue a decision. 

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