N.Y. Prosecutors Want Trump’s Former Campaign Chairman Paul Manafort Sent to Rikers Island

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Former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort could be headed to Rikers Island, the notorious jail complex in New York City, if prosecutors get their way.

In this handout provided by Alexandria Sheriff's Office, Paul Manafort poses for a mugshot photo at the Alexandria Detention Center in Alexandria, Virgina. (Credit: Alexandria Sheriff's Office via Getty Images)
In this handout provided by Alexandria Sheriff’s Office, Paul Manafort poses for a mugshot photo at the Alexandria Detention Center in Alexandria, Virgina. (Credit: Alexandria Sheriff’s Office via Getty Images)

New York prosecutors are seeking to move Manafort from the western Pennsylvania prison where he is serving his federal sentence to Rikers Island for the duration of a state case brought by the Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance, according to a source familiar with the discussions.

But Manafort’s legal team hopes that won’t be where he stays as he faces the New York charges. Manafort hasn’t been told where he’ll be held yet, according to his defense attorney, Todd Blanche. Blanche acknowledged that Rikers was a possible place Manafort could go—and that it’s even likely.

It’s not yet clear when Manafort will make the move, but it won’t be this week, according to a source.

The move would mean he almost certainly would be back in solitary confinement for months, similar to the conditions that Manafort’s lawyers said led to a deterioration of his health ahead of his federal trial in Virginia and around his guilty plea on federal charges in Washington DC. He was held for months at the Alexandria Detention Center in Northern Virginia in protective custody, but not solitary confinement, kept away from others except for a few hours a day for his own safety.

Vance’s office has declined to comment.

Rikers Island has a notorious reputation for both its violence and its poor conditions. The US attorney’s office for the Southern District of New York reached a settlement with the city in 2015 after a multi-year investigation found adolescent inmates were not protected from “the rampant use of unnecessary and excessive force by New York City Department of Correction staff and violence inflicted by other inmates.”

Manafort is currently serving his sentence at the penitentiary in Loretto, Pennsylvania, in the rural western part of the state.

“I’m hopeful he’ll be returned to Loretto after he’s arraigned” as he awaits the New York City trial, Blanche said. Manafort will likely be arraigned soon after he’s taken to New York, even as quickly as on the same day.

He was sentenced in March to seven and a half years in prison for federal tax fraud, bank fraud and foreign lobbying violation stemming from two cases from special counsel Robert Mueller’s office.

Less than an hour later, Vance announced a 16-count criminal indictment charging Manafort with state crimes, including residential mortgage fraud and falsifying business records.

President Donald Trump said late last year that he hadn’t discussed a possible pardon for Manafort, but he has expressed sympathy for his former campaign chairman. While Trump could pardon Manafort for federal crimes, his authority doesn’t extend to state charges.

Vance’s office waited until after Manafort was sentenced to announce the indictment, which was handed up a week earlier. At the time, Vance said, “No one is beyond the law in New York.”

The state charges are likely to be challenged under the notion of double jeopardy, which prohibits the prosecution of someone twice for the same offense. New York’s state legislature passed a bill last month that would allow state charges against an individual pardoned by a president, but the law is not retroactive and would not apply to Manafort.

After Manafort is transferred to New York, he will soon after be arraigned before a judge on the state charges.

Manafort follows a line of other celebrities accused of crimes who have been in Rikers, including Dominique Strauss-Kahn, the former director of the International Monetary Fund, who was accused of sexual assault, as well as rappers Lil’ Wayne and Tupac Shakur.

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