Manafort, who is serving a federal prison sentence, is waiting to be arraigned after prosecutors in Manhattan unsealed a 16-count indictment that accuses him of giving false information on mortgage loan applications. He was expected to be held at New York City's notorious jail complex, Rikers Island, until the state case is resolved.
New York prosecutors had sought to take custody of Manafort under a law that provides for the transfer of prisoners indicted in another jurisdiction. But Manafort's lawyers reached out to the federal Bureau of Prisons and raised concerns that his health and safety could be threatened if he was transferred to Rikers Island, the Justice Department official said. They instead proposed that Manafort continue to be held in federal custody and made available to state officials when needed, the official said.
The Justice Department contacted Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. about the proposal from Manafort's lawyers. The state prosecutors didn't object to the proposal and the Justice Department "determined to err on the side of caution" by keeping Manafort in federal custody while the state case plays out, the official said. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because the official wasn't authorized to speak publicly.
Manafort's lawyer, Todd Blanche, wrote a letter to the warden of the federal prison in Pennsylvania where he had been held before the transfer to New York, and said it "would not serve anyone's interest" for Manafort to be kept at Rikers Island while awaiting his state trial, according to a copy of the letter obtained by the AP.
Manafort had been in solitary confinement because of his high-profile status in a Virginia jail while his federal case continued. Moving him to New York would mean he would be farther from his family members, Blanche wrote. The attorney did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Rikers Island has been plagued by complaints of violence for years and city officials have come under scrutiny for the use of solitary confinement and the mistreatment of mentally ill inmates. Manafort likely would've been held in a facility on the island that houses inmates with high-profile cases who require protective custody.
Vance said in a letter to Rosen that his office never suggested Manafort be housed at Rikers Island and took no position about which correctional facility Manafort should be held in while awaiting trial in New York.
Manafort was sentenced in March to serve more than seven years in prison on federal charges in cases brought in special counsel Robert Mueller's Russia investigation. The charges related to Manafort's years of Ukrainian political consulting work, including allegations he concealed his foreign government work from the United States and failed to pay taxes on it. The state charges in New York were announced just minutes after Manafort's sentencing in Washington.
Bureau of Prisons records show Manafort was being held Tuesday at the Metropolitan Correctional Center, a federal lockup in Manhattan.
Sisak reported from New York.