‘We Build the Wall’ fraud case ends in mistrial, with jury deadlocked
The trial of a Colorado businessman on charges that he ripped off thousands of donors who contributed $25 million to a campaign to build a wall along the southern U.S. border ended Tuesday in a mistrial after jurors could not reach a unanimous verdict in a prosecution that once featured former presidential advisor Stephen K. Bannon.
The mistrial in the prosecution of Timothy Shea was granted by U.S. District Judge Analisa Torres after jury members reported for a third time that they could not reach a verdict on any count, saying the deadlock was “abundantly clear.” They said extended deliberations had left them “further entrenched in our opposing views.”
Turmoil during jury deliberations was revealed last week when 11 jurors sent a note to the judge to say one juror who complained about a “government witch hunt” had exhibited “political bias,” labeled the rest of them as liberals and complained that the trial should have occurred in a Southern state.
U.S. Atty. Damian Williams said in a statement that the mistrial doesn’t lessen “our resolve” in the “powerful and compelling evidence that we strongly believe proves his guilt.”
A retrial is unlikely to occur before the fall.
Shea and his lawyer did not comment as they left the courthouse.
After two previous notes last week pointed toward a deadlock, the judge had urged jurors to try again.
Shea was left to stand trial alone after Bannon, a onetime advisor to then-President Trump, was pardoned, and two other defendants pleaded guilty.
The case was prosecuted in New York after it was determined that donors were from across the country, including New York.
Conspiracy and falsification of records charges against Shea were filed after questions arose over how donations were spent from a campaign called “We Build the Wall” that raised about $25 million. Only a few miles of the wall were built.
Prosecutors said Shea and other fund organizers promised investors that all donations would fund a wall, but Shea and the others pocketed hundreds of thousands of dollars for themselves.
Shea’s lawyers contended that he acted honorably regarding the fundraising campaign and did not commit a crime.
Shea, of Castle Rock, Colo., owns an energy drink company, Winning Energy, whose cans have featured a cartoon superhero image of Trump.
Dissension among jurors was first revealed Thursday when 11 jurors said in a note to the judge that they were unanimously requesting that one juror be replaced by an alternate juror. They said the juror had expressed antigovernment bias.
In response to the note, the judge questioned the juror with lawyers from both sides present.
Among her questions, Torres asked him if he had any biases or personal views that prevent him from being a fair and impartial juror.
He said he did not. So she left him on the jury.
After twice requesting a mistrial on Thursday, defense attorney John Meringolo renewed his request in writing on Friday.
He said the jury had violated secrecy rules by revealing too much in its note seeking the disqualification of one juror, adding that the judge improperly referenced political views when she read them a so-called Allen charge intended to add new energy to deliberations.
Meringolo said those instructions could have been understood to be singling out the juror “and pressuring him to come to a verdict.”
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