Manafort Prosecution Barred by Double Jeopardy Rule, Appeals Court Says

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A New York appeals court on Thursday rebuffed the Manhattan district attorney’s efforts to charge Paul J. Manafort, President Trump’s former campaign chairman, with mortgage fraud and other state felonies, saying that such a move would amount to double jeopardy since Mr. Manafort had already been convicted in federal court for similar crimes.

The court’s decision once again quashed efforts by the district attorney, Cyrus R. Vance Jr., to ensure that Mr. Manafort, 71, would still face prosecution should Mr. Trump pardon him. The decision was unanimous and affirmed a lower-court ruling in December that said the indictment against Mr. Manafort violated the state’s double jeopardy law.

Mr. Manafort’s legal team had maintained that the indictment brought by Mr. Vance, a liberal Democrat who has also started an investigation focused on Mr. Trump and his business practices, was politically motivated.

On Thursday, a lawyer for Mr. Manafort, Todd Blanche, praised the appeals court’s decision.

“As we have said from the time the district attorney announced charges against Mr. Manafort, this is a case that should never have been brought because the dismissed indictment is a clear violation of New York law,” Mr. Blanche said in a statement.

Mr. Vance could appeal the decision. A spokesman for Mr. Vance said on Thursday that the office was considering its “appellate options.”

Mr. Manafort, who had been serving his sentence of seven and a half years for the federal crimes in a minimum-security prison in Pennsylvania, was granted confinement in his home in Northern Virginia in May because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Mr. Trump has never said he intended to pardon Mr. Manafort, but the president has spoken repeatedly of his pardon power and publicly defended his former campaign chairman multiple times. The White House did not immediately respond to requests for comment on Thursday.

In 2017, Mr. Vance’s office began examining loans Mr. Manafort received from two banks. Those loans were also the subject of some of the counts in the federal cases brought by Robert S. Mueller III, the special counsel.

In August 2018, a federal jury in Alexandria, Va., convicted Mr. Manafort for various financial crimes, and a month later Mr. Manafort pleaded guilty in a related federal case to crimes including money laundering and obstruction of justice. He was sentenced in March 2019 in both cases.

State prosecutors had deferred their inquiry so as to not interfere with Mr. Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.

In March 2019, shortly after his sentencing in the federal cases, Mr. Manafort was charged in a 16-count indictment in New York with mortgage fraud and more than a dozen other state felonies. The charges against Mr. Manafort alleged that between December 2015 and January 2017, he submitted false documentation to get mortgages from three financial institutions, defrauding them of more than $20 million, among other accusations.

In December, however, Justice Maxwell Wiley of the State Supreme Court ruled that the indictment violated a state law against double jeopardy, which says that a defendant may not be tried twice for the same offense.

Mr. Vance’s office had challenged that ruling.

The U.S. Constitution says that a defendant may not be prosecuted twice for the same crime, and New York State law provides even stronger protections against double jeopardy, with some exceptions.

State prosecutors had sought to fit their case into one of the exceptions, but the court’s decision on Thursday said that prosecutors had failed to show that the state law was designed to prevent a different kind of harm than the federal law under which Mr. Manafort was convicted.

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