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Ken Kurson, left, and Jared Kushner

By Jonathan Stempel

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Ken Kurson, a former editor of the New York Observer newspaper who was pardoned in January by then-U.S. President Donald Trump, was criminally charged on Wednesday by Manhattan prosecutors with spying on his former wife by accessing her computer.

Cyrus Vance, the Manhattan district attorney, said Kurson used spyware from computers at the Observer and elsewhere between September 2015 and March 2016 to obtain his wife's passwords and access her Gmail and Facebook accounts.

Kurson, who was divorcing his wife around that time, also anonymously disseminated some of her private Facebook messages, Vance said. The Observer was once owned by Trump's son-in-law and Kurson's friend Jared Kushner.

Kurson, 52, of South Orange, New Jersey, was charged with eavesdropping and computer trespass, both felonies carrying a maximum four-year prison term. Kurson is a political consultant and former speechwriter for Trump's former personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani.

A lawyer for Kurson did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

U.S. prosecutors in Brooklyn last October charged Kurson with cyberstalking three people, at least one of whom he blamed for the breakdown of his marriage.

Though Trump's pardon ended that case, U.S. presidents cannot pardon people for state crimes.

"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.

In announcing the pardon in January, Trump's White House said the federal probe of Kurson began only because of his reported nomination to the board of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Kurson was the Observer's editor in chief from 2013 to 2017. The newspaper endorsed Trump for president in 2016.

Another pardon recipient, former 2016 Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort, was separately charged by Vance with mortgage fraud and other crimes, but that case was dismissed in February on double jeopardy grounds.

In July, Vance charged Trump's family business, the Trump Organization, and its chief financial officer with running a "sweeping" 15-year tax fraud. Both pleaded not guilty.

(Reporting by Jonathan Stempel in New York; Editing by Will Dunham)

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Jeff Danziger lives in New York City. He is represented by CWS Syndicate and the Washington Post Writers Group. He is the recipient of the Herblock Prize and the Thomas Nast (Landau) Prize. He served in the US Army in Vietnam and was awarded the Bronze Star and the Air Medal. He has published eleven books of cartoons and one novel. Visit him at DanzigerCartoons.

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