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The “We Build the Wall” federal fraud case staged in Manhattan, New York, ended in a mistrial on Tuesday after a juror displayed “political bias” by advancing allegations of “hunting government witches.
Timothy Shea, of Castlerock, Colorado, was charged along with three others, including former Trump chief strategist Steve Bannon, with defrauding hundreds of thousands of donors in a crowdfunding campaign in line known as “We Build the Wall” which raised over $25. million.
Under the false pretense that the money would be used to privately fund construction of the border wall, federal prosecutors said the defendants laundered money through a nonprofit veteran of the Air Force Brian Kolfage, founder and public face of We Build the Wall, to fund his lavish lifestyle.
But Judge Analisa Torres of the Manhattan Federal District Court on Tuesday declared a mistrial, acknowledging that jurors were at an insurmountable impasse in deliberations over the wire fraud conspiracy, money laundering conspiracy and charges. of falsifying records against Shea.
‘WE BUILD THE WALL’ ORGANIZERS PLEASE FRAUD PLOT
The decision comes after the judge received a memo last Thursday from 11 jurors asking for the 12th to be replaced by an alternate. The note, which Torres read aloud in the courtroom, said the 12th juror displayed “political bias,” spoke of a “government witch hunt,” and was not deliberating based on the evidence presented in court, including talking about “political parties,” according to the New York Times.
He also quoted the 12th juror making statements such as “Tim Shea is a good man. He doesn’t beat his wife” and “You just can’t vote to lynch someone”. The 12th juror also argued that Shea should have been tried in a southern state instead of New York because people there tend to vote a certain way.
The other 11 jurors asked the judge to replace the 12th with an alternate, but after interviewing him privately and being assured that he could set aside prejudices and personal opinions that would prevent him from being fair and impartial, Torres ordered the jury to continue to deliberate.
In a separate memo on Tuesday, jurors said a stalemate was “amply clear” and that further deliberation had left them “no longer rooted in our opposing views,” Politico reported.
“While the jury was unfortunately unable to reach a unanimous verdict in the case of United States v. Timothy Shea, this in no way diminishes our resolve or our confidence in the powerful and compelling evidence which we believe , prove his guilt,” Damian Williams, U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, said in a statement. “We look forward to trying this case again as soon as possible.”
Shea was the only one of the four charged in the scheme to stand trial; In April, Kolfage pleaded guilty to wire fraud conspiracy and tax charges and Andrew Badolato pleaded guilty to wire fraud conspiracy. Bannon was pardoned by former President Donald Trump before leaving office.
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The Times reported that prosecutors said the laundered funds were used for home renovations, a luxury SUV and a Trump-themed energy drink truck labeled to contain “12 oz of liberal tears.”