Ken Kurson pardoned by Trump, Charged in New York

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Seven months after being pardoned by President Donald J. Trump, a former editor of The New York Observer is accused of illegally spying by gaining secret access to his ex-wife’s computer.

Editor Ken Kurson, a close friend of Mr. Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner, was charged Wednesday with wiretapping and computer trespassing in Manhattan state criminal court. Prosecutors accuse Mr Kurson of using spyware to breach his wife’s computer in 2015 as the couple’s marriage fell apart. Each crime is punishable by up to four years in prison.

“We will not accept presidential pardons as out-of-jail cards for the well-connected in New York,” Manhattan district attorney Cyrus R. Vance Jr. said in a statement announcing the charges.

Mr. Kurson’s lawyer, Marc L. Mukasey, declined to comment.

Mr Kurson used a software program called WebWatcher to monitor his wife’s computer keystrokes from The Observer’s offices in Midtown Manhattan, which, according to the complaint, allowed him to retrieve passwords for his Gmail and Facebook accounts. Prosecutors said he used illegal access to spy from September 2015 to March 2016. The couple divorced in January 2016.

The complaint stated that Mr. Kurson’s wife worked at a summer camp in 2015 and was friends with one of his co-workers. The complaint said they stayed in touch after the summer was over and the camp manager later received an email with copies of private conversations between the two. Based on this information, investigators believe that Mr. Kurson was monitoring his wife’s conversations with her colleague.

Mr. Kurson was not a particularly adept user of WebWatcher and contacted the program’s customer service representatives several times in the complaint, both to help his wife access his messages and to reassure him that he could not detect the software.

“For example, if someone at the Apple store is SEARCHING for it, will they be able to find it?” He asked once in October 2015.

The accusations are the latest twist in a case that first began in the spring of 2018, when the Trump administration nominated Mr. Kurson as a board member of the National Humanities Foundation.

After the FBI began routinely checking Mr. Kurson’s background, investigators soon learned of allegations that Kurson had molested several people, one of whom was a doctor from Mount Sinai Hospital.

Last October, federal prosecutors accused Mr. Kurson of cyberattacking and harassing three people, including the doctor he blames for the collapse of his marriage. At the time, Mr Mukasey said the alleged conduct “does not quite merit a federal criminal prosecution”.

But Mr Kurson’s accusers said his behavior, which included targeting the doctor with negative Yelp reviews, threatening emails and implying that he had an affair with calls to his office, was “devilish,” according to the federal complaint.

A footnote to the federal complaint stated that, in addition to the conduct with which he was accused, Mr Kurson was “involved in a pattern of harassment that involved installing software on a person’s computer to monitor that person’s keystrokes and website usage without him.” knowledge or authority.”

In addition to his ties to Mr. Kushner, Mr. Kurson is a former speechwriter for former New York City mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani and Mr. Trump’s personal attorney. He was also criticized in the 2016 presidential election. Advice to Mr Trump on a speech.

Court documents submitted in November 2020 showed that Mr. Kurson was in defense talks with federal prosecutors. But in his final hours in office, Mr Trump made these talks controversial. Forgiving Mr Kurson, along with several other associates of the president, including former chief strategist Stephen K. Bannon.

The New York Times reported in February that Mr. Vance, a Democrat, opened separate investigations into the conduct that led to the lawsuit. The federal charges against Mr. Kurson and Mr. Bannon raised the possibility of state charges that Mr. Trump’s pardon did not protect them. (The investigation into Mr. Bannon continues.)

Mr. Vance’s office has accused Mr. Trump’s former campaign chairman, Paul J. Manafort, of mortgage fraud and other crimes in 2019. Later a New York appellate court, the charges violated the state’s double danger law.

But Mr Manafort had been tried and convicted a year ago on federal fraud charges. Mr. Kurson was never tried, and New York’s double endangerment law prohibits a second prosecution only when a jury has previously been dismissed or the accused has pleaded guilty.

It was unclear whether Mr. Kurson’s ex-wife was collaborating with the district attorney’s office. In a written statement on why the president pardoned Mr. Kurson, the Trump administration said, wrote a letter to federal prosecutors He asked them to drop their lawsuit.

In July, Mr. Vance accused Mr. Trump’s family business, the Trump Organization, as well as his longtime chief financial officer of involvement. in a comprehensive, years-long scheme to evade taxes on certain benefits.

The investigation into Mr. Kurson was led by the district attorney’s cybercrime and identity theft bureau, a priority for Mr. Vance.

William K. Rashbaum and I Protest contributing reporting.

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