Ken Kurson, the former editor of a New York newspaper when it belonged to his friend Jared Kushner, a top advisor to President Donald Trump, has been charged by federal prosecutors with interstate cyber stalking and harassment of three people.
Kurson, a political advisor who is also a confidante of Trump's personal attorney Rudy Giuliani, has been accused of repeatedly visiting his victims at work, filing false complaints with their employers and "malicious cyber activities," the US prosecutor said in Brooklyn.
The criminal behavior allegedly happened in the last two months of 2015 when Kurson was editor-in-chief of the New York Observer, which was then owned by Kushner, who is also Trump's son-in-law.
The Maplewood, New Jersey resident surrendered to authorities Friday morning and practically appeared in federal court in Brooklyn on Friday afternoon.
A woman who identified herself as a "victim" of Kurson dialed into the trial, which was conducted via audio links due to coronavirus precautions.
Kurson's release loan was set at $ 100,000 by a judge, Ramon Reyes, who restricted his travel to the continental United States. Reyes also ordered Kurson not to have any contact with the victims in the case.
His arrest comes two years after he withdrew his name from considering an appointment by the Trump administration to the board of directors of the National Humanities Foundation.
The New York Times reported in 2018 that two doctors at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York had accused Kurson of harassment and that the FBI had been informed of their allegations when that agency was conducting a background check on Kurson for the seat of the board. The background check led directly to the unsealed criminal complaint on Friday.
Kurson, 52, told the Times in the same article that he withdrew his name because of the paperwork required for the trial.
The criminal complaint against Kurson states that he had blamed one of the victims, with whom he had been friends for more than 20 years, "for the dissolution of his marriage". The second victim was an employee and supervisor of the first victim, according to the complaint.
The third victim, who was the second victim's spouse, worked for a media publication, the complaint said.
The complaint also states that FBI agents found evidence that between September 2015 and December 2015, Kurson tampered with other victims' email and social media accounts and spyware used to log keystrokes on someone's computer without their knowledge Victim installed.
There were also indications that Kurson contacted the victims' employers to make allegations that the complaint found included a "false allegation of inappropriate contact with a minor".
He used the aliases "Jayden Wagner" and "Eddie Train" to make the false claims, the complaint said.
His 2018 FBI questionnaire for a background check for his nomination to the future director also states, "Kurson made several false statements and misrepresentations, including false confirmation that he never used any other names or aliases." It is a federal crime to lie on such a questionnaire.
Prosecutors also said that "Kurson has made multiple trips to the workplaces of two of the victims, taking photos and inquiring about a victim's work schedule."
One employer of two of the victims hired a security officer "because of Kurson's behavior," the US attorney said.
Kurson's attorney Marc Mukasey said, "Ken Kurson is an honorable man, a loving father and a brilliant writer. This case is hardly the subject of federal prosecution."
"He'll get past it," said Mukasey.
A White House spokesman declined to comment on Kurson's arrest and whether Kushner was questioned by the FBI or other investigators about Kurson's alleged behavior.
The Sinai press office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Kurson helped direct former New York Mayor Giuliani's 2008 presidential campaign.
He later served as editor-in-chief of The New York Observer when the then-weekly newspaper was owned by Kushner. The news agency is now published online under the name Observer.
As editor of the newspaper, Kurson advised then-presidential candidate Trump in a speech he gave to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee in 2016. Kurson sat in the Trump family box of the Republican National Convention later that year, the Times previously reported.
More recently, he started a news website, Modern Consensus, which focuses on cryptocurrency and blockchain. Kurson is a board member of the cryptocurrency company Ripple.
The Times reported in 2018 that by the time Kurson allegedly began harassing Mount Sinai's doctors, "and his wife were on the verge of divorce."
A doctor "who had been a longtime friend of the couple told hospital officials she was concerned about what she viewed as Mr. Kurson's angry, erratic behavior," the Times reported.
Kurson called the doctor a "very good friend" in an interview with The Times.
"I only wish her the best."