The Manhattan District Attorney’s Office had argued “fresh elements” in its investigation overcame the burden needed to proceed with a case for the same conduct for which Manafort was previously prosecuted. The district attorney’s case was widely viewed as a bid to ensure Manafort would face a hefty prison sentence should Trump pardon him.
The appeals court upheld a December ruling by a trial court judge, which said the charges in the state court indictment were too similar to the federal case.
“It is undisputed that the federal charges of which [the] defendant has already been convicted involve the same fraud, against the same victims, as is charged in his New York indictment,” the two-page decision by the Appellate Division’s First Judicial Department read.
Prosecutors in the state court case “failed to establish that the federal and state statutes, all of which were directed against fraudulent transactions, were designed to prevent very different kinds of harm or evil,” the ruling says.
“The statutory differences cited by the People fall far short of satisfying the ‘very different kinds’ test,” it added.
The Manhattan District Attorney’s Office could appeal the ruling to the state’s highest court, which would be a lengthy process even without delays imposed by the pandemic.
“We will consider our appellate options,” said Danny Frost, a spokesman for the office.
Manafort, who was sentenced to 7½ years in prison, was convicted in a pair of cases that stemmed from special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election.
His attorney did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The district attorney, Cyrus R. Vance Jr., has drawn attention for his office’s efforts to obtain Trump’s tax returns and related financial documents as part of a grand jury probe into alleged hush-money payments made to two women in 2016 and alleged fraud within the Trump Organization.
In that case, the Supreme Court ruled in July that Trump’s status as sitting president did not make him immune from facing state court actions. The matter has returned to the high court, with Trump’s lawyers expected to argue that Vance’s investigation is a politicized fishing expedition.