NEW YORK (Reuters) – New York state’s highest court has rejected the Manhattan district attorney’s effort to prosecute Paul Manafort, the onetime campaign chairman for former U.S. President Donald Trump.
The decision by the Court of Appeals ends Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance’s attempt to pursue Manafort on 16 felony charges, including mortgage fraud, that were similar to crimes for which Manafort had been convicted in federal court and pardoned by Trump.
Vance had been appealing a 4-0 ruling in October by an intermediate-level state appeals court that prosecuting Manafort violated state double jeopardy laws, or trying someone twice for the same conduct.
A spokesman for Vance on Monday declined to comment on the Court of Appeals’ Feb. 4 order, which let stand the indictment’s dismissal.
Manafort’s lawyer Todd Blanche said he was pleased.
“This is a case that should never have been brought because the dismissed indictment is a clear violation of New York law,” he said.
Manafort worked on Trump’s White House campaign for five months in 2016.
Vance announced Manafort’s indictment in March 2019, less than an hour after a judge sentenced Manafort to 7-1/2 years in prison on federal tax evasion and bank fraud charges.
The federal case stemmed from former U.S. Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s probe into Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.
Trump pardoned Manafort on Dec. 23, seven months after he was released to home confinement.
Manafort’s lawyers had said he faced health risks, including from possibly contracting the coronavirus, in prison.
U.S. presidents cannot pardon people for state crimes.
Steve Bannon, a former Trump adviser pardoned after being charged by federal prosecutors with defrauding donors in a border wall project, is being investigated by Vance over his role in that project, The New York Times reported this month.
Bannon had pleaded not guilty in the federal case, but double jeopardy may not apply because he was never tried.
(Reporting by Karen Freifeld and Jonathan Stempel in New York; Editing by Peter Cooney and Bill Berkrot)