Jared Kushner and Ken Kurson in 2013. Photo via Getty Images
Former New York Observer editor, Jared Kushner ally, and notably creepy media figure Ken Kurson has been charged with cyberstalking in New York State after he was pardoned by former president Donald Trump for a very similar set of offenses. According to a charging document, Kurson, 52, is charged with eavesdropping and computer trespass, both felonies, for installing spyware on his then-wife’s computer and accessing her email and Facebook accounts. His wife also told police in 2015 that Kurson created an email account in the name of a second person whom his wife had befriended while working at a summer camp.
Kurson was indicted by federal prosecutors in New York State in October 2020 for cyberstalking and sending threatening messages to three people, including a doctor at Mount Sinai Hospital whom he reportedly blamed for the collapse of his marriage. As VICE reported at the time, he was accused of “following [his victims] to work, smearing their names using aliases, and in one case concocting a false accusation against one of his victims of improper conduct with a minor.” While the case was still pending, Trump pardoned him in a flurry of similar favors conducted on his way out of the Oval Office.
The new charges against Kurson, which were announced by New York District Attorney Cy Vance’s office on Wednesday, say that an investigator obtained records from a cyber surveillance company, which showed that Kurson purchased a subscription from the company on September 24, 2015 and then installed software on his then-wife’s computer. The spyware allowed him to track her web and keystroke activity. Kurson purchased the product under his own name, according to the charging documents, and while working as the editor-in-chief of Observer Media Group, accessing the spyware from his work computer.
Beyond allegedly stalking his then-wife, who went on to divorce him the following year, Kurson also apparently became fixated on someone his wife met while working at a summer camp, according to prosecutors. His wife and the person, referred to as “Individual 2” in the charging documents, began corresponding on Facebook; according to prosecutors, Kurson appears to have accessed and downloaded their correspondence, which he then sent to the director of the summer camp.
Kurson also emailed the cyber surveillance company’s customer service line multiple times, according to investigators, to complain that he wasn’t able to see the contents of messages he wanted to see on Facebook; an employee for the company showed him where to find what he was looking for. When his wife began to suspect her communications were being tracked and took her computer to an Apple store, Kurson contacted customer service for the company again, writing, “If someone at the Apple Store is LOOKING for it, will they be able to find it?”, followed by “I need to uninstall [the surveillance program] from the target Mac… I need to uninstall it PERFECTLY. So that not even an expert can detect it had been there.” Kurson’s wife reported him to the South Orange, New Jersey police department in November of 2015, and told them Kurson had created an email in the name of the person she’d met at summer camp, and used it to send emails.
In a press release, Vance’s office quoted the D.A. as saying, “We will not accept presidential pardons as get-out-of-jail-free cards for the well-connected in New York. 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.”
Vance, of course, has his own reasons for wanting to appear as tough as possible on certain kinds of well-connected creeps: He faced criticism for his 2012 decision to drop a fraud investigation against the Trump family and his 2015 decision not to charge Harvey Weinstein with groping Ambra Battilana Gutierrez.
According to his personal website, Kurson is currently the founder and editor of a blog about cryptocurrency; his bio on that site makes little mention of his life after 2017, when things got a little hairy for him. It’s unclear if he currently has an attorney. In a statement from the Trump White House when Kurson was first pardoned, his ex-wife was quoted as saying she was “disgusted” with the charges. Vance’s office said in their release that Kurson was investigated by the D.A.’s Cybercrime and Identity Theft Bureau, beginning in January 2021, after his federal pardon.