Jury says it’s deadlocked in ‘We Build The Wall’ fraud trial
By LARRY NEUMEISTER
NEW YORK (AP) — A jury said it was deadlocked Thursday in its deliberations of charges against a Colorado businessman accused of defrauding thousands of investors in a wall along the southern U.S. border hours after 11 jurors turned against one juror, accusing him of “political bias” and saying he’d labeled the rest of them liberals.
U.S. District Judge Analisa Torres rejected a defense request to declare a mistrial and instead read a so-called “Allen charge,” designed to spark productive deliberations Friday in the trial of Timothy Shea. Jurors were then sent home.
The original four defendants in the case included Steve Bannon, an adviser to ex-President Donald Trump who was pardoned by Trump early last year. Two others pleaded guilty to charges.
The prosecution pertained to a “We Build The Wall” campaign that raised about $25 million for a wall. Only a few miles of wall were built. Prosecutors said Shea and other fund organizers promised investors that all donations would fund a wall, but Shea and others eventually siphoned away hundreds of thousands of dollars for themselves.
Shea, of Castle Rock, Colorado, owns an energy drink company, Winning Energy, whose cans have featured a cartoon superhero image of Trump and claim to contain “12 oz. of liberal tears.”
Earlier Thursday, 11 jurors said in a note to the judge that they were unanimously requesting that one juror be replaced by an alternate juror because the juror had shown anti-government bias and had accused all the others of being liberals.
In their lengthy note, the jurors told Torres that the juror had said things such as “government witch hunt” and accused the government of bringing the case in New York City because it “knew people here vote differently.” The note said the juror added that the trial “should have been tried in a southern state.”
The jurors also accused the juror of saying: “Tim Shea is a good man. He doesn’t beat his wife.”
After the jurors requested that the juror be replaced, Torres interviewed him in her robing room with lawyers from both sides present. She asked him several questions aimed at determining if he was biased.
The hearing, which wasn’t open to the public, produced answers that caused the judge to order jurors to resume deliberations. Ninety minutes later, they returned a note that said: “We cannot agree on a unanimous verdict on any of the counts.”
Defense attorney John Meringolo had requested a mistrial hours earlier, contending that the jury had revealed so much about deliberations in their note that they had violated instructions to keep their talks secret. After the deadlock note, he resumed his request for a mistrial and the judge refused it again.