Jared Kushner’s friend and former “media savant” was charged with state eavesdropping and computer trespass charges by the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office on Wednesday.
Ken Kurson, 52, was previously pardoned for the federal equivalents of such charges by then-President Donald Trump in late January.
“We will not accept presidential pardons as get-out-of-jail-free cards for the well-connected in New York,” Manhattan DA Cyrus Vance (D) said in a statement. “As alleged in the complaint, Mr. Kurson launched a campaign of cybercrime, manipulation, and abuse from his perch at the New York Observer, and now the people of New York will hold him accountable.”
Allegedly going by the fake names, “Jayden Wagner,” and “Eddie Train,” the defendant was accused of filing false complaints with two of the alleged victims’ employers, posting a fake negative review of another alleged victim’s business and for making “unsolicited contact” with two of the alleged victims during late 2015 and early 2016.
“Kurson traveled on multiple occasions to the workplace of two of the victims, taking photographs and inquiring about one victim’s work schedule,” the U.S. Department of Justice alleged in a press release at the time. “During the investigation, the FBI gathered evidence that Kurson simultaneously engaged in a similar pattern of harassment against two other individuals. As a result of Kurson’s conduct, an employer of two of the victims hired a security guard.”
Those allegations apparently came to light after Kurson missed out on a board position at the National Endowment for the Humanities. The federal agency conducted an extensive background check by way of the FBI and reportedly did not like what the federal agents found.
Explaining his presidential pardon, the Trump White House cast the entire drama as the result of a political witch hunt:
President Trump granted a full pardon to Kenneth Kurson. Prosecutors have charged Mr. Kurson with cyberstalking related to his divorce from his ex-wife in 2015. In a powerful letter to the prosecutors, Mr. Kurson’s ex-wife wrote on his behalf that she never wanted this investigation or arrest and, “repeatedly asked for the FBI to drop it… I hired a lawyer to protect me from being forced into yet another round of questioning. My disgust with this arrest and the subsequent articles is bottomless…” This investigation only began because Mr. Kurson was nominated to a role within the Trump Administration. He has been a community leader in New York and New Jersey for decades. In addition, Mr. Kurson is a certified foster parent, a successful business owner, and is passionate about various charitable causes. Mr. Kurson is an upstanding citizen and father to five beautiful children.
The state charges are premised on Kurson’s alleged efforts to obtain his ex-wife’s login information for various social media websites.
“As alleged in the Manhattan Criminal Court Complaint and stated on the record in court, from September 24, 2015 to March 3, 2016, Kurson unlawfully used an electronic monitoring software program commonly known as ‘spyware’ on a computer belonging to his then-wife, with whom he lived,” Vance’s press release alleges. “Using the spyware to monitor his wife’s keystrokes, Kurson obtained her passwords and accessed her Gmail and Facebook accounts. According to IP address records, Kurson used the spyware from his computer at the offices of the Observer Media Group on West 44th Street in midtown Manhattan, where he was working as Editor-In-Chief, among other locations.”
Vance also alleges that, “[a]mong other intrusions,” in October 2015, the defendant “unlawfully accessed and then anonymously disseminated private Facebook messages.”
Kurson is also a former speechwriter for Trump and a former associate of Rudy Giuliani. He was arrested on Wednesday and appeared in Manhattan Supreme Court for an initial appearance the same day.
Each of the two charges is a Class E felony under New York State law. If convicted as charged, Kurson faces a maximum sentence of eight years in state jail–though probation or some other form of supervised release is more typical in non-violent cases.
[image via screengrab/CNN]
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