Paul Manafort: Political Prosecution

In a ruling released today, the Supreme Court upheld the “dual-sovereignty doctrine,” which allows state and federal prosecutions for the same offense.

In the case of Gamble v. United States the Court ruled against the petitioner, whose attorneys argued that the dual-sovereignty doctrine was a violation of the “double jeopardy clause” of the Fifth Amendment.

Gamble pleaded guilty to a firearm charge in the state of Alabama in 2015. He was then indicted by federal prosecutors for the same instance of possession under federal law. Here is the history:

Gamble moved to dismiss, arguing that the federal indictment was for “the same offence” as the one at issue in his state conviction, thus exposing him to double jeopardy under the Fifth Amendment. The District Court denied this motion, invoking the dual-sovereignty doctrine, according to which two offenses “are not the ‘same offence’  for double jeopardy purposes if “prosecuted by different sovereigns.” … Gamble pleaded guilty to the federal offense but appealed on double jeopardy grounds. The Eleventh Circuit affirmed.

In today’s 7-2 ruling, the doctrine was affirmed. Justice Samuel Alito wrote:

Although the dual-sovereignty rule is often dubbed an ‘exception’ to the double jeopardy right, it is not an exception at all. On the contrary, it follows from the text that defines that right in the first place…We have long held that a crime under one sovereign’s laws is not “the same offence” as a crime under the laws of another sovereign. Under this “dual-sovereignty” doctrine, a State may prosecute a defendant under state law even if the Federal Government has prosecuted him for the same conduct under a federal statute.

Justice Thomas filed a concurring opinion.

Justices Ginsburg and Gorsuch filed dissenting opinions.

Justice Gorsuch’s opinion actually makes far more sense to me. He wrote:

A free society does not allow its government to try the same individual for the same crime until it’s happy with the result. Unfortunately, the Court today endorses a colossal exception to this ancient rule against double jeopardy. My colleagues say that the federal government and each State are “separate sovereigns” entitled to try the same person for the same crime. So if all the might of one “sovereign” cannot succeed against the presumptively free individual, another may insist on the chance to try again. And if both manage to succeed, so much the better; they can add one punishment on top of the other.

To say the least, this decision was not good news for President Trump’s former campaign manager, Paul Manafort, who is currently serving a four-year sentence for bank and tax fraud convictions. It gives New York State the green light to prosecute Manafort for these same offenses.

Even if Manafort were to receive a pardon from President Trump, he would still face charges in New York.

Manafort was recently transferred to Rikers Island, a maximum security jail located in The Bronx, NY, “for the duration of the state case” against him. This facility has been home to some of the city’s most violent criminals, including the Son of Sam serial killer, David Berkowitz, and Mark David Chapman, who shot John Lennon.

A source close to Manafort told Fox News that he will be “held in solitary confinement for his own protection and that his defense team is planning an appeal.” The 70-year-old’s health has deteriorated significantly during his time in prison, and the source objected to Manafort being placed in solitary, saying, “He’s not a mob boss.”

Manafort has an unlikely ally in that effort – Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.

In her tweets, Ocasio-Cortez said she was applying her beliefs to Manafort’s case, adding that “a prison sentence is not a license for (government) torture and human rights violations. That’s what solitary confinement is.” She also made a nod to Rikers’ notorious reputation.
“Sorry, but if people aren’t willing to apply principles evenly, no matter the person, then they aren’t fighting for criminal justice reform. People acting as though this is summer camp. It’s Rikers, widely known for abuse,” Ocasio-Cortez tweeted, saying also that “of course” she did not want Manafort to be pardoned for his crimes.

But, the highly partisan District Attorney, Cy Vance, Jr., lacks that compassion.