NEW YORK (AP) — A newspaper editor friend of former President Donald Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner was hit Wednesday with state cyberstalking charges in New York, seven months after Trump pardoned him in a similar federal case just before leaving office.
Manhattan prosecutors accused Ken Kurson, the New York Observer’s editor when it was owned by Kushner, of hacking his wife’s online accounts and sending threatening, harassing messages to several people amid heated divorce proceedings in 2015.
Kurson, of South Orange, New Jersey, is charged with eavesdropping and computer trespass, both felonies. At times, prosecutors said, Kurson was monitoring his now ex-wife’s computer activity from his desk at the Observer’s Manhattan offices.
Kurson did not enter a plea at his arraignment Wednesday. He was released on his own recognizance.
The allegations mirror federal charges filed last October against Kurson — a case that went away when Trump pardoned him in January in the final hours of his White House term.
Presidential pardons apply only to federal crimes, not state offenses.
“We will not accept presidential pardons as get-out-of-jail-free cards for the well-connected in New York,” Vance said in a statement.
A message seeking comment was left with Kurson’s lawyer.
Speaking about the federal charges last year, Kurson lawyer Marc Mukasey said: “The conduct alleged is hardly worthy of a federal criminal prosecution. Ken will get past it.”
Kurson is the first person in Trump’s orbit to be charged by local prosecutors after being pardoned by the former president, though it’s not the first time Manhattan prosecutors have tangled with a Trump ally.
District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. charged former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort with state crimes in 2019 as a hedge against a possible pardon after he was convicted in federal court over similar mortgage fraud allegations.
Manafort challenged Vance’s case on double jeopardy grounds and won, with a final decision coming in February, less than two months after Trump pardoned him in the federal case.
Last month, Vance brought tax fraud charges against Trump’s company, the Trump Organization and its longtime chief financial officer, Allen Weisselberg. A court hearing in that matter is scheduled for Sept. 20. Neither Weisselberg nor the company had been charged with those crimes previously.
New York eased double jeopardy protections in 2019 to ensure state prosecutors could pursue charges against anyone granted a presidential pardon for similar federal crimes.
In Kurson’s case, double jeopardy wouldn’t necessarily be an issue because his federal case ended before a conviction or acquittal.
The federal case against Kurson, who now works in the cryptocurrency industry, arose from a background check after the Trump administration offered Kurson a seat in 2018 on the board of the National Endowment for the Humanities.
Manhattan prosecutors started investigating Kurson for possible violations of state law once Trump pardoned him.
In explaining the pardon, the Trump White House cited a letter from Kurson’s ex-wife in which she said she never wanted him investigated or arrested and, “repeatedly asked for the FBI to drop it.”
It wasn’t clear from the criminal complaint filed Wednesday whether she’s cooperating with the state case. In the document, prosecutors cited interviews she and Kurson gave to police in New Jersey in 2015, as well as computer records and an interview with a person who worked with Kurson’s ex-wife.
According to Manhattan prosecutors, Kurson monitored his now ex-wife’s computer keystrokes in 2015 and 2016 using spyware, obtaining passwords and accessing her Gmail and Facebook accounts. In October 2015, prosecutors said, he accessed and then anonymously disseminated his now ex-wife’s Facebook messages.
According to Wednesday’s criminal complaint, Kurson’s now ex-wife told South Orange police he was “terrorizing her through email and social media, causing her problems at work and in her social life.”
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Michael R. Sisak, The Associated Press