A New York judge threw out state mortgage fraud charges against Paul Manafort, ruling Wednesday that the criminal case was too similar to one that has already landed President Trump's former campaign chairman in federal prison, the AP reports. The ruling was a blow to what had widely been seen as an attempt by Manhattan's district attorney, a Democrat, to hedge against the possibility that Trump would pardon Manafort for federal crimes. District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr.'s office said it would appeal. Manafort was convicted last year in two federal cases stemming from his business dealings and is serving a 7½-year prison sentence.
Judge Maxwell Wiley ruled that state law precludes prosecution, citing double jeopardy grounds. Manafort, 70, wasn't in court for the ruling because of a health problem. Defense lawyer Todd Blanche raised the double jeopardy issue soon after Manafort was arrested, saying that the charges brought by Vance violated a state law that bars repeat prosecutions for the same general conduct. He wrote in court papers seeking a dismissal that the factual overlap between the federal and state cases "is extensive—if not total." Blanche said in a written statement that "this indictment should never have been brought, and today’s decision is a stark reminder that the law and justice should always prevail over politically-motivated actions." (The Mueller probe led to a fresh jail sentence Tuesday.)