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NY ends 'double jeopardy loophole' for presidential pardons

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo on Sept. 18.

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo on Sept. 18. Credit: Newsday/Steve Pfost

ALBANY — Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo signed a law Wednesday that closes a “double jeopardy loophole,” allowing New York to pursue state charges against a U.S. president and his associates who are accused of federal crimes and receive a presidential pardon.

The law was sparked by President Donald Trump’s consideration of pardoning individuals who have been convicted of federal charges over the last three years, Democrats have said.

“The closure of this egregious loophole gives prosecutors the ability to stand up against any abuse of power and helps ensure that no politically motivated, self-serving action is sanctioned under law,” Cuomo, a Democrat, said in announcing his approval.

The bill was sponsored by Sen. Todd Kaminsky (D-Long Beach), a former federal prosecutor, who added: “With the president all but pledging to corruptly abuse his pardon power to allow friends and associates off the hook, it is crucial that we have closed the double jeopardy loophole and preserved the rule of law in New York.”

The new law ends a provision in state law prohibiting New York prosecutors from charging people with state crimes similar to the federal crimes for which they were pardoned. It isn’t retroactive to Trump allies already convicted of crimes.

The State Legislature approved the bill in May. Republicans said the bill was a “slippery slope” that could erode a person’s right against prosecution twice for the same crime and there were valid reasons why the prohibition existed.

"This so-called 'loophole' is actually anything but," Assemb. Edward Ra (R-Franklin Square) said Wednesday. "It was a rather conscious decision of the New York State Legislature a century ago after the U.S. Supreme Court decided on the dual-sovereignty doctrine … Even the New York Civil Liberties Union opposed this bill."

New York Republican chairman Nick Langworthy criticized Cuomo, saying: "This is just another presidential harassment stunt and abuse of power that will never hold up in the court of law.”

Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. is pursuing state charges against Paul Manafort, Trump's ex-campaign manager who in 2018 was convicted of federal tax- and bank-fraud crimes. Vance has argued he is pursuing separate charges — which would not be affected by the new state law — while Manafort's attorneys have said the case amounts to double jeopardy.

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