September 5, 2019 / 10:34 PM / 18 days ago

Lawyers for ex-Trump aide Manafort seek dismissal of New York case

(Reuters) - Lawyers for former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort have filed court papers seeking to dismiss a mortgage fraud case against him in New York, arguing he has already been convicted on similar federal charges, violating double jeopardy law.

Former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort, exits the courtroom after his arraignment in New York Supreme Court in New York, U.S., June 27, 2019. REUTERS/Eduardo Munoz

Manafort’s lawyers accused Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance, a Democrat, of a bringing a “politically charged case” against Manafort, a longtime Republican who was chairman of President Donald Trump’s campaign for three months in 2016.

“Mr. Manafort is entitled to the equal protection of New York’s double jeopardy statute, which permits no exceptions for defendants who have garnered national interest, nor for favoured

political causes of the elected district attorney,” they wrote in a filing to state Supreme Court in Manhattan on Wednesday.

Manafort lawyer Todd Blanche had said in June when Manafort pleaded not guilty to the state charges that he planned to seek a dismissal on double jeopardy grounds.

A spokesman for the Manhattan District Attorney declined to comment, saying prosecutors would file a response to the court by an Oct. 9 deadline.

Manafort faces 16 criminal counts in New York. The charges include mortgage fraud, conspiracy and falsifying records related to his efforts to obtain millions of dollars in loans on properties in New York and elsewhere between 2015 and 2017.

The charges centre on mortgage applications to three banks involving properties in Manhattan, Brooklyn, the Hamptons and California. The loans were also at issue in Manafort’s trial in federal court in Virginia last year.

Manafort is currently serving a 7-1/2-year sentence following his conviction in the Virginia case and another federal case in Washington related to his lobbying work for pro-Russian politicians in Ukraine.

Under New York law, a person can be prosecuted twice for the same act only in specific circumstances, including when at least one element of the crimes is distinct and the statutes address “very different kinds of harm or evil.”

Vance’s office will likely argue an exception to New York’s double jeopardy protections is warranted in Manafort’s case.

The New York charges are widely viewed as an attempt to ensure that Manafort serves significant prison time even if Trump pardons him, which the president has not ruled out.

“The indictment before this Court — charges brought by the New York County District Attorney based on alleged conduct identical to that for which Mr. Manafort was previously charged, tried, and sentenced — violates this black-letter New York law,” Manafort’s lawyers wrote.

reporting by Nathan Layne and Karen Freifeld in New York

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