Politics

Former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort to be sent to New York for state charges, could be housed in notorious Rikers Island jail

Key Points
  • Paul Manafort, former chief of President Donald Trump's 2016 campaign, is set to be sent from federal prison to New York City, where he could end up being housed for months or even longer in the notorious Rikers Island jail.
  • Manafort, now serving a federal sentence of 7½ years in prison in connection with charges lodged by special counsel Robert Mueller, faces pending felony charges of mortgage fraud, conspiracy and falsifying business records in New York state.
  • The Rikers jail complex is infamous in New York for housing violent felons and having chronic problems with gangs.
Former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort departs from U.S. District Court in Washington, U.S., February 28, 2018.
Yuri Gripas | Reuters

Paul Manafort, former chief of President Donald Trump's 2016 campaign, is set to be sent from federal prison to New York City, where he could end up being housed for months or even longer in the notorious Rikers Island jail.

Manafort, now serving a federal sentence of 7½ years in prison in connection with charges lodged by special counsel Robert Mueller, faces pending felony charges of mortgage fraud, conspiracy and falsifying business records in New York state. 

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Paul Manafort sentenced to more than seven years in prison

Those charges contained in an indictment were unveiled by Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. in March, just minutes after Manafort, 70, was sentenced for the second time on federal charges.

Vance's spokesman declined to comment Tuesday.

But a process currently is underway to arrange for the transfer of Manafort from his current home in a minimum security federal correctional facility in Loretto, Pennsylvania, to New York to be arraigned in the state case.

Todd Blanche, Manafort's criminal defense lawyer in New York, told CNBC on Tuesday that he expects Manafort to be sent to the Big Apple in coming weeks.

"I don't believe it's this week," Blanche said. "But I do believe it's soon."

Blanche said that contrary to earlier reports about Manafort's imminent transfer, "I don't know that there's a decision that's been made on" whether to keep Manafort in the jail complex at Rikers Island, where violence among inmates and between guards and inmates is a chronic problem.

Fox News first reported Monday night that Manafort would be sent to Rikers Island, a sprawling jail complex located between the boroughs of the Bronx and Queens, and that he is expected to arrive there by Thursday. A source quoted by Fox said that Manafort will be held in solitary confinement for his own protection.

The New York Times published a story Tuesday saying Manafort would be sent to Rikers and likely would be held in isolation.

Prisoners awaiting trial on state charges in Manhattan are routinely held on Rikers.

However, some such prisoners at held at another jail, the Manhattan Detention Center, while some others with medical needs are held in a jail facility at Bellevue Hospital in Manhattan.

Blanche said he does not believe that Manafort should be kept in any jail in New York pending his trial there.

"I believe that he should be returned to his designated facility [Loretto] until trial, and when there's a trial he comes back," Blanche said.

The lawyer said Loretto is a more appropriate place for Manafort because "he can participate in programs" and can have his medical needs addressed.

"It's a much better environment for a 70-year-old man," Blanche said.

"I'm not sure why the state needs to keep him [in New York] for six months or more months," Blanche said.

A spokesman for the New York court system told CNBC there is no date currently scheduled for Manafort to be arraigned on the state charges.

A view of the Rikers Island prison complex in New York.
Spencer Platt | Getty Images

The Rikers jail complex is infamous in New York for housing violent felons facing state charges, and having chronic problems with gangs, as well as numerous incidents of guards beating inmates, including adolescent detainees.

"It's a cesspool and it needs to be fixed," said Duncan Levin, a criminal defense lawyer who previously was both a federal prosecutor and a top prosecutor in Vance's office.

"It's not befitting a civilized nation," Levin said. "It doesn't adequately provide for either the safety for the prisoners or the guards."

Levin also said that Manafort should not be held in solitary confinement, which he called "an inhumane place for anybody to be."

"It may very well be for his safety, but if so it only goes to show that Rikers is in need of a security upgrade."

New York Mayor Bill de Blasio, who last year first announced plans to shutter Rikers by 2027, in April said the facility would close a year before that. De Blasio's move to close Rikers came after investigations into violence at the facility and demands by prison reform advocates to shut it.

Manafort was convicted at his first federal trial in Virginia last year of bank fraud, tax fraud and failing to file a foreign bank account.

He later pleaded guilty in federal court in Washington to two counts of conspiracy.

Levin said he expects Manafort would continue being held in Rikers for the duration of his state charges because keeping him there makes it more efficient for officials to transport him to and from court hearings for the case. He did not expect that once Manafort is arraigned he would be sent back to a federal facility pending trial.

"These are very serious state charges," Levin noted.

And being kept at Rikers "is "certainly going to make his stay a lot more unpleasant."

Levin said he believed that some of the charges facing Manafort could end up being dismissed on grounds of double jeopardy because the alleged conduct appears to have been the subject of charges that Manafort already has faced in federal court.

But, he added, "The entire case does not fall apart on double jeopardy grounds."

"He's going to have problems in New York."

This story has been updated to include comments from Paul Manafort's criminal defense lawyer, Todd Blanche.

Correction: New York Mayor Bill de Blasio last year announced plans to shutter Rikers by 2027. An earlier version misstated the year.