Manafort pleads not guilty in NY Supreme Court to fraud charges

Posted at 12:34 PM, Jun 27, 2019
and last updated 2019-06-27 19:55:07-04

Paul Manafort pleaded not guilty Thursday in New York state’s Supreme Court to state fraud charges brought by the Manhattan district attorney’s office, the third criminal case he has faced in recent years and one that may trigger a battle on double jeopardy grounds.

The former chairman of President Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign, Manafort is charged by state prosecutors with 16 felony counts, including residential mortgage fraud and falsifying business records.

He was one of the first people charged by the office of special counsel Robert Mueller, resulting in a conviction by a jury last summer in one case and Manafort’s guilty plea in another case. He is currently serving a seven-and-a-half year prison sentence for federal tax fraud, bank fraud and foreign lobbying violations.

During his arraignment Thursday before Justice Maxwell Wiley, Manafort, who is serving time at the Metropolitan Correctional Center in Manhattan, appeared in the courtroom in navy prison garb and thick-soled white sneakers, his hair bushy and gray, his face weathered and his wrists bound by handcuffs.

As he was led into the courtroom, he walked with a slight limp, and once inside he required assistance from his attorney to rise from his seat.

The judge set the next court date for October 9. Although Manafort’s attorney said his client would waive his appearance at upcoming pretrial court proceedings, the judge said he wouldn’t agree to that as a blanket measure, saying he would review the circumstances on a case-by-case basis.

Manafort will remain in federal custody while the New York state case against him proceeds, a prosecutor from the Manhattan district attorney’s office said Thursday. He didn’t specify the facility where Manafort will be held.

The 70-year-old has been incarcerated since last June, when a federal judge in one of the special counsel cases determined he had violated his bail by attempting to contact witnesses in the case. While being held in regional jails in Virginia, his health declined, leading him to use a wheelchair or a cane at court appearances.

The state charges relate to mortgages Manafort received on properties in the New York area between 2015 and 2017, a time when his foreign lobbying business was drying up. They involve some of the same loans that led to his conviction by a federal jury last summer.

Though Manafort is already serving a lengthy sentence, the state case, which was brought moments after his sentencing in March, is potentially consequential for him because a conviction in state court would remain even if he were to receive a presidential pardon for his federal crimes. Such a pardon doesn’t apply to state crimes.

Manafort’s lawyer, Todd Blanche, has said he will fight the charges, saying they amount to double jeopardy. In New York, a defendant can be prosecuted twice for the same actions only if certain exceptions are met.

On Thursday, following the arraignment, Blanche said he intends to file a motion to dismiss the indictment, based on double jeopardy concerns. “In our view, the laws of New York do not allow the people to do what they did in this case,” he told reporters.

Earlier this month, however, the Supreme Court ruled that a person can be charged and tried in state and federal court for the same conduct without running afoul of the double jeopardy clause of the US Constitution, saying state and federal governments are separate sovereigns.

Manafort’s state case has also been the subject of controversy after an unusual intervention in recent weeks by Deputy Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen, who wrote to Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance about Manafort’s whereabouts while the federal inmate awaited state court proceedings.

Rosen passed along a letter to Vance that Manafort’s attorney had written to the Bureau of Prisons, seeking to keep Manafort in federal custody in light of health and other concerns, CNN has reported.

Manafort’s defense team specifically cited concerns about incarceration at Rikers Island as part of the rationale to allow Manafort to remain at the Pennsylvania facility where he was being held. Manafort was ultimately transferred to the Metropolitan Correctional Center, a federal facility, where he remains. Rosen’s intervention in the case of a single federal inmate is considered a rarity.