Are the NY State Charges Shoddier Than They Look?

March 14, 2019 9:11 a.m.

[Request for opinions and guidance from lawyers and especially ones working in New York State toward the bottom of this post.]

Let me share a few thoughts and tips on the new Manafort charges from Manhattan, DA Cy Vance, Jr. They are twofold. Prosecutors I’ve spoken to seem close to unanimous that the indictments appear poorly drafted. Perhaps this is just the first bite at the apple and they’ll be revised or tightened. I don’t know. But related to that and likely more important: at least some of those with experience in New York State are skeptical whether at least some of these charges will survive New York State’s double jeopardy statute.

Now to be clear, this isn’t the issue of dual sovereigns (state and federal) and whether and how one jurisdiction can charge a person for the same or related set of acts under different statutes. This is entirely a New York state matter. New York has one of the country’s strictest double jeopardy statutes, which is not at all a bad thing. And at least some knowledgable lawyers are skeptical whether these charges or at least some of them will pass that test.

Is this just sloppiness? Having them drop immediately after Manafort’s sentencing does give me some question about haste. But of course they could have been held in reserve for weeks or months for that day. Could they be a signal either to Manafort or perhaps other targets that a presidential pardon doesn’t end the story? In that sense, maybe they’re a placeholder. Perhaps the answer is painfully more prosaic: bad legal work. Or maybe the folks I’ve spoken to are simply wrong.

If you have some expertise on this, which focuses specifically on New York State law, please let me know your thoughts.

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