Supreme Court rules defendants can be tried on state and federal charges, potentially impacting Manafort

Supreme Court rules defendants can be tried on state and federal charges, potentially impacting Manafort
© Greg Nash

The Supreme Court on Monday declined to overturn a longstanding doctrine on whether an individual can be prosecuted for the same crime twice under federal and state laws.

The justices, in a 7-2 decision, found that the dual-sovereignty doctrine does not contradict the Constitution's Double Jeopardy Clause, which prevents an individual from being prosecuted for the same crime twice.

The decision could have widespread implications for defendants, including former associates of President TrumpDonald John TrumpGOP divided over impeachment trial strategy Official testifies that Bolton had 'one-on-one meeting' with Trump over Ukraine aid Louisiana governor wins re-election MORE who are hoping the president might pardon them.

The ruling rejected the argument put forward by Alabama inmate Terance Gamble, who was prosecuted for the same gun offense by state and federal prosecutors.

The decision could potentially impact Trump's 2016 campaign manager Paul ManafortPaul John ManafortGates sentencing set for next month Yovanovitch says John Solomon's columns were used to push false allegations Trump bemoans 'double standard' in Stone conviction MORE, who is facing state charges that echo a federal conviction. The businessman, who was recently convicted on fraud charges in Virginia, could have benefited from the court overturning the doctrine.

Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance unveiled a mortgage fraud indictment against Manafort in March, just moments after Manafort was sentenced in federal court in D.C.  

Trump has distanced himself from the possibility of pardoning Manafort, but has expressed sympathy for his former campaign head, fueling speculation that a pardon could be in the works.

Trump would be unable to pardon Manafort on any state charges.

Justice Samuel AlitoSamuel AlitoKavanaugh to deliver major speech to conservative Federalist Society Supreme court has thrown a wrench into the machinery of free speech Divided Supreme Court leans toward allowing Trump to end DACA MORE wrote the court’s majority opinion, joined by Justices Clarence ThomasClarence ThomasKavanaugh to deliver major speech to conservative Federalist Society Five landmark moments of testimony to Congress Katie Hill calls out a 'double standard' in final floor speech MORE, Stephen BreyerStephen BreyerDivided Supreme Court leans toward allowing Trump to end DACA Justices wrestle with reach of Clean Water Act Justices appear divided over expanding police officers' traffic stop power MORE, Sonia SotomayorSonia SotomayorDivided Supreme Court leans toward allowing Trump to end DACA Justices wrestle with reach of Clean Water Act Justices appear divided over expanding police officers' traffic stop power MORE, Elena KaganElena KaganOvernight Energy: EPA watchdog slams agency chief after deputy fails to cooperate in probe | Justices wrestle with reach of Clean Water Act | Bipartisan Senate climate caucus grows Justices wrestle with reach of Clean Water Act Justices appear divided over expanding police officers' traffic stop power MORE and Brett KavanaughBrett Michael KavanaughElection 2020: Why I'm watching Amy and Andy Kavanaugh hailed by conservative gathering in first public speech since confirmation Protesters roll out a screen playing Blasey Ford's testimony ahead of Federalist Society dinner MORE and Chief Justice John Roberts.

Justices Ruth Bader GinsburgRuth Bader GinsburgGinsburg returns to Supreme Court after stomach bug Ginsburg misses Supreme Court arguments due to illness Justices appear divided over expanding police officers' traffic stop power MORE and Neil GorsuchNeil GorsuchProtesters roll out a screen playing Blasey Ford's testimony ahead of Federalist Society dinner Kavanaugh to deliver major speech to conservative Federalist Society McConnell protege emerges as Kentucky's next rising star MORE each filed dissenting opinions, and Thomas issued a separate concurring opinion.

In the majority opinion, the justices rejected Gamble’s reading of the Double Jeopardy Clause, finding that the provision “honors the substantive differences between the interests that two sovereigns can have in punishing the same act.” 

“They suggest that because the division of federal and state power was meant to promote liberty, it cannot support a rule that exposes Gamble to a second sentence,” the opinion states. “This argument fundamentally misunderstands the governmental structure established by the Constitutions.”

And the justices largely rejected Gamble’s legal arguments, which cited, among other things, the Founding Fathers' original drafts of the Fifth Amendment and English common law.

Alito wrote that doing away with the dual sovereignty rule would "do little to trim the reach of federal criminal law, and it would not even prevent many successive state and federal prosecutions for the same criminal conduct" without further action by the court.

In a dissenting opinion, Ginsburg wrote that considering the state and federal government as separate sovereigns “overlooks a basic tenet of our federal system.” She argued that the separate sets of rights for each form of government was intended to secure the rights of the people, not to allow the further prosecution of crimes. 

“Different parts of the ‘WHOLE’ United States should not be positioned to prosecute a defendant a second time for the same offense,” Ginsburg wrote.

And Gorsuch wrote that a “free society does not allow its government to try the same individual for the same crime until it’s happy with the result.”

He wrote that the doctrine “finds no meaningful support in the text of the Constitution, its original public meaning, structure, or history."

“Instead the Constitution promises all Americans that they will never suffer double jeopardy,” Gorsuch wrote. “I would enforce that guarantee.”

--Updated at 12:12 p.m.