The "We Build the Wall" federal fraud case hosted in Manhattan, New York, ended in mistrial Tuesday after a juror displayed "political bias" in bringing forward "government witch hunt" allegations.
Timothy Shea, from Castlerock, Colorado, was accused along with three others, including former Trump chief strategist Steve Bannon, of defrauding hundreds of thousands of donors in connection with an online crowdfunding campaign known as "We Build the Wall" that raised more than $25 million.
Under the false pretense that the money would be used to privately fund construction on the border wall, federal prosecutors said the defendants laundered money through a nonprofit to disabled Air Force veteran Brian Kolfage, the founder and public face of We Build the Wall, to fund his lavish lifestyle.
But Judge Analisa Torres of Federal District Court in Manhattan declared a mistrial Tuesday, recognizing jurors had reached an insurmountable impasse in deliberations regarding wire-fraud conspiracy, money-laundering conspiracy and falsifying records charges against Shea.
The ruling comes after the judge received a note from 11 jurors last Thursday seeking to have the 12th replaced with an alternate. The note, which Torres read aloud in the courtroom, said the 12th juror had demonstrated "political bias," spoke of a "government witch hunt," and was not deliberating based on evidence presented in court, including by speaking of "political parties," according to The New York Times.
It also quoted the 12th juror as 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 Shea should have been tried in a southern state instead of New York because people there tend to vote a certain way.
The 11 other jurors asked the judge to replace the 12th with an alternate, but after privately questioning him and receiving assurance he could put aside biases and personal views that would prevent him from being fair and impartial, Torres ordered the jury to continue deliberating.
In another note Tuesday, jurors said a deadlock was "abundantly clear" and further deliberations had only left them "further entrenched in our opposing views," Politico reported.
"While the jury was unfortunately unable to reach a unanimous verdict in U.S. v. Timothy Shea, that in no way lessens our resolve or belief in the powerful and compelling evidence that we strongly believe proves his guilt," Damian Williams, U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, said in a statement. "We look forward to retrying this case as soon as possible."
Shea was the only one of four charged in the scheme to face trial; In April, Kolfage pleaded guilty to wire fraud conspiracy and tax-related charges and Andrew Badolato pleaded guilty to wire fraud conspiracy. Bannon was pardoned by former President Donald Trump before he left office.
The Times reported prosecutors said the laundered funds were used on home renovations, a luxury SUV and truckload of Trump themed energy drinks labeled to contain "12 oz. of liberal tears."