Paul Manafort’s lawyers are arguing that the former Trump campaign chairman shouldn’t have to face a “politically-charged” prosecution in New York state because of the state’s so-called double jeopardy rule.
They made their case in motion filed Thursday that blasts Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. for prosecuting Manafort over crimes that special counsel Robert Mueller’s team already tried Manafort for in a federal court in Alexandria, Va., last summer.
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Many legal observers saw the state indictment as a kind of insurance policy if President Donald Trump issues a pardon or commutation to Manafort to cut down the seven-and-a-half year federal prison sentence he’s currently serving.
The ambiguous outcome of Manafort’s federal trial last year is the key issue in the dispute over the new state charges against Manafort.
At the Virginia trial, the jury convicted Manafort on eight counts including filing false tax returns, hiding foreign bank accounts and committing bank fraud, but couldn’t reach a unanimous verdict on 10 other counts. A verdict form showed the jury was split, 11-1, in favor of conviction on those charges.
Mueller’s office eventually dropped those 10 counts as part of a plea deal that headed off another federal trial Manafort was facing in Washington, D.C. Manafort ultimately admitted to all the allegations in both federal cases, but a judge dismissed the 10 hung counts last October.
Normally, a defendant could be retried following a mistrial caused by a hung jury, but Manafort’s lawyers handling the New York case say any federal prosecution that goes to trial — even if it results in a hung jury — triggers the state’s anti-double-jeopardy law and forbids a state prosecution for the same offense.
“New York’s double jeopardy statute is clear that ‘it is the fact of the prior prosecution, not the result, which triggers the statutory protection,’” Manafort’s lead attorney, Todd Blanche, wrote.
The overlap between the 16-count state indictment and the earlier federal charges against Manafort remains unclear, but it appears that most or all of the charges involve events detailed in the federal case against the longtime international political consultant and lobbyist.
Vance’s office has yet to put forward detailed legal arguments defending the state indictment, which includes charges of residential mortgage fraud, falsifying business records and scheming to defraud. However, prosecutors are expected to argue that a mistrial due to a hung jury simply doesn’t count as a prior federal prosecution under the New York anti-double-jeopardy law.
Under a legal theory known as “dual sovereigns,” the U.S. Supreme Court has long permitted states to charge defendants already charged in federal court and vice versa. In June, the justices voted, 7-2, to reject the latest case challenging that doctrine.
However, states are free to pass laws limiting their own prosecutors from initiating criminal cases related to crimes already prosecuted at the federal level.
No trial date has been set on the New York state charges against Manafort.