Ken Kurson, a Trump family pal and former editor of the New York Observer, may have thought he was in the clear in January when Trump wiped away charges related to Kurson’s divorce meltdown.
But Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance has other ideas. On Wednesday, Vance’s office filed felony charges for eavesdropping and computer trespass against Kurson, 52, a close friend of Jared Kushner and one-time Trump speech writer who advised Rudy Giuliani on his failed 2008 presidential campaign.
A criminal complaint filed in New York County Criminal Court alleges that, between September 2015 and March 2016, Kurson used spyware to access his then-wife’s communications during a messy marriage breakdown. The couple divorced in January 2016.
Kurson was among a list of Trump allies and pals to receive pardons in Trump’s final hours in office. He was facing charges after being arrested in October for cyberstalking and harassing three people, including a Mount Sinai doctor and a former friend, in a scheme to punish those he viewed as responsible for the collapse of his marriage.
The complaint filed Wednesday alleges that Kurson used WebWatcher, an electronic monitoring software program, to track his wife’s keystrokes and thereby obtain passwords which unlocked access to her Gmail and Facebook accounts.
Prosecutors allege that a review of IP address records showed that Kurson used the spyware from his computer at Observer offices in midtown Manhattan, as well as from other locations.
According to a copy of the complaint, obtained by The Daily Beast, the spying began after Kurson’s then-wife worked at a summer camp in 2015 and became friends with a co-worker, exchanging messages over email and Facebook after camp ended.
The camp’s director later received an email containing a series of private conversations between Kurson and the co-worker, the complaint said, which led investigators to believe that Kurson had been monitoring his wife’s conversations and online activity without her consent.
According to the complaint, between September and November 2015, Kurson repeatedly contacted the spyware company’s customer service with questions related to his use of the product.
On Oct. 17, 2015 Kurson contacted customer support “at least four times” asking whether the software could be detected by the person using the device and how he could uninstall it “PERFECTLY” without detection, the complaint says.
In one instance, an anxious Kurson allegedly asked WebWatcher if he was better off risking being caught uninstalling the software, or “having the target be taken to the apple store and just hoping they don’t catch it?”
Kurson’s wife, according to the complaint, had suspected her computer was being monitored, and on Nov. 24, 2015, reported to the South Orange Police Department that her husband was “terrorizing her through email and social media causing her problems at work and in her social life.”
She also reported that her then-husband had accessed her private email and Facebook account and created a fake email in the name of her camp co-worker that he used to send emails.
Apple records show that two “suspicious” programs were removed from the computer of Kurson’s wife when she took it to an Apple store for inspection, the complaint states.
Kurson’s alleged harassment initially came to light in 2018 while he was undergoing an FBI background check for an unpaid advisory role in the Trump administration that The Daily Beast first reported on.
The complaint mentions the FBI background check from years before, stating that agents at the time had learned that South Orange police had records related to Kurson’s intrusion into his wife’s computer.
In a statement Wednesday, Vance went after the Trump pardon directly, saying Kurson’s ties to the former president wouldn’t free him from accountability.
“We will not accept presidential pardons as get-out-of-jail-free cards for the well-connected in New York,” Vance said. “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. We encourage all survivors and witnesses of this type of cybercrime and intimate partner abuse to report these crimes to our Office.”
Kurson did not immediately respond to The Daily Beast’s request for comment Wednesday afternoon. His lawyer, Marc Mukasey, hung up when reached by phone.