New trial of Colorado man begins in border wall fraud case

An attorney for a Colorado man accused of misleading donors to a $25 million fund to build a wall along the southern US border has helped a previous trial end in a deadlocked jury.

During his opening statement, attorney John Meringolo, who was defending Timothy Shea, also spoke dismissively of Steve Bannon, the former senior adviser to then-President Donald Trump who was charged in the case before Trump pardoned him when he left office on last year.

“Is there a place in this case?” Meringolo asked jurors in federal court in Manhattan to pay attention to where the trial witnesses came from and where the events described in the indictment occurred. He suggested that an adverse location determination might be enough to absolve the client of him.

Meringolo played notes that would likely appeal to any juror who could think of the line from a juror at Shea’s first trial in the spring that upset his fellow jurors so much they wrote a note to the judge saying he had branded them. all as liberals and complained that the trial should have taken place in a southern state.

Days later, the jury, hopelessly deadlocked, caused the trial to be annulled.

Last month, Judge Analisa Torres denied Shea’s request to move the trial to Colorado due to “political polarization” in New York and pre-trial publicity. The judge wrote that the Castle Rock, Colo., man had not shown why “political polarization” would be less in his home state or anywhere else.

Shea, owner of an energy drink company, Winning Energy, sat with his hands folded during opening remarks. His company’s cans have featured a cartoon superhero image of Trump and claim to contain “12 oz. of liberal tears.”

Assistant US Attorney Derek Wikstrom said during his opening that hundreds of thousands of people across the country made donations, many of them small, in response to the “We Build The Wall” online fundraiser that went viral.

The prosecutor pointed to the defendant when he said, “This man, Timothy Shea, used the money to line his own pockets.”

Wikstrom said Shea helped himself and others steal hundreds of thousands of dollars even though the fundraiser promised “not one penny” of the money would go toward campaign organizers’ salaries because it would all go to To the wall. Only a few miles (kilometers) of wall were built.

“This case is not about whether you think there should be a wall,” he said. “Whether you are for or against a border wall, no one should be a victim of fraud.”

Meringolo followed the stick-to-the-facts approach of Wikstrom, who described the fundraising quest in patriotic terms, saying organizers wanted to give the money to Trump, but the government said it could not accept privately raised money.

He described Shea’s former co-defendant and business partner in fundraising, Brian Kolfage, as “a veteran and a hero.”

“The guy has no legs and no arms,” ​​Meringolo said of the triple amputee.

Shea is the only one of three people charged in the case to stand trial. Kolfage pleaded guilty to the charges, and Bannon was pardoned before being tried on federal charges.

Meringolo told jurors that all of the money Shea received was earned through her work to secure land, meet with landowners along the border, and engage with others through social media, along with security expenses. of the project.

He said there was “no evidence that Bannon did security work.”

Bannon, 68, pleaded not guilty last month to New York state charges alleging he misled investors in the “We Build The Wall” campaign. Presidential pardons apply only to federal crimes.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *