New York prosecutors charged Kenneth Kurson, the former editor of the New York Observer newspaper who was pardoned by President Donald Trump, with two state felonies for eavesdropping on his then-wife by installing spyware on her computer.
The charges, announced Wednesday by Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance, come seven months after Kurson, a close friend of Jared Kushner, was pardoned by Trump of federal criminal charges alleging he cyberstalked three people.
Kurson was arraigned Wednesday on the two state felonies – eavesdropping and computer trespass – and released on his own recognizance, according to a spokesman for the district attorney.
He did not enter a plea. Kurson had denied the federal charges.
His attorney in that case could not immediately be reached for comment.
The state investigation into Kurson’s activities began in January after the presidential pardon was issued, according to the DA’s office.
“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. “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.”
Vance’s office is also investigating Steve Bannon, Trump’s former chief strategist, who was pardoned of federal fraud charges as Trump was leaving office. Bannon was charged by federal prosecutors with diverting more than $1 million from a crowdfunding campaign to build a southern border wall. Bannon had pleaded not guilty.
Last month Vance’s office announced criminal charges against the Trump Organization and its chief financial officer alleging they engaged in a 15-year tax fraud scheme. The company and CFO entered pleas of not guilty.
Charged with using spyware on wife’s computer
Prosecutors charge Kurson with installing electronic-monitoring software, or spyware, on his then-wife’s computer from September 2015 to March 2016, Kurson allegedly used the spyware to obtain passwords to his wife’s Facebook and Gmail email accounts. At several points when his wife grew suspicious, according to the criminal complaint, Kurson allegedly contacted the maker of the electronic-monitoring software for help on the computer that he falsely claimed belonged to his daughter.
Kurson allegedly asked the software maker multiple times whether he should uninstall the program if the computer was taken to the Apple store.
“If the person who has the target mac suspects that keystroke software has been installed, am I better off: a) risking being caught uninstalling it? or b) having the target be taken to the apple store and just hoping they don’t catch it?,” he said in a chat message, according to the complaint.
During that period, a complaint was filed with the South Orange, New Jersey, police department about the suspected intrusion. Kurson and his wife were interviewed by a detective in 2015, according to the complaint, and both “expressed concern about an unknown actor” who had accessed her Facebook account.
His wife’s suspicions continued, and she emailed her contacts telling them to no longer use her Gmail email account because “someone has been reading my Gmail since the end of October,” according to the complaint.
One month later, his wife reported to the South Orange police that Kurson was “terrorizing her through email and social media causing her problems at work and in her social life.”