The close friend of a Trump family member pleaded guilty on Wednesday in state court to lesser charges for stalking his ex-wife amid their disintegrating marriage.
Ken Kurson, 53, originally faced a count each of computer trespass and eavesdropping, but now admits to only attempting these crimes, which knocks these class E felonies down to class A misdemeanors. As part of his deal with prosecutors, he can reduce these even further to just a harassment violation if he does 100 hours of community service and does not get arrested within a year.
The development could mark the end of a tumultuous court history for Kurson, the former editor of The New York Observer and a close friend of former President Donald Trump‘s son-in-law Jared Kushner. He originally landed in trouble with federal authorities after the FBI ran a routine background check on his nomination to the board of the National Endowment for the Humanities. Prosecutors ended up accusing him of cyberstalking, saying he lashed out at three people amid his divorce. He blamed one of them, a longtime friend of more than 20 years, for ruining his marriage. Kurson threatened to destroy this person’s reputation, also harassing that individual’s spouse and a co-worker/supervisor.
Under pseudonyms, Kurson filed false complaints against two of the people’s employers, wrote a fake negative review of another person’s business, and making “unsolicited contact” with two of the people in late 2015 and early 2016, prosecutors said.
That case came to a sudden end as outgoing President Trump pardoned him at the end of his term in January 2020. The White House said that Kurson’s ex-wife had demanded prosecutors drop the case. That federal action did not touch state officials, however, and then-Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance brought forward charges in August.
From Sept. 24, 2015 to March 3, 2016, he used spyware to monitor his wife’s keystrokes, obtaining the passwords to her Gmail and Facebook accounts, Manhattan prosecutors said.
“Using the spyware to monitor his wife’s keystrokes, Kurson obtained her passwords and accessed her Gmail and Facebook accounts,” the office said last year. “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 disparaged the federal pardon.
“We will not accept presidential pardons as get-out-of-jail-free cards for the well-connected in New York,” he said.
Colin Kalmbacher and Matt Naham contributed to this report.
[Screenshot via CNN]
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