Jury deliberates verdict in ‘We Build The Wall’ fraud trial
NEW YORK (AP) — A prosecutor told jurors in closing arguments at a criminal trial Tuesday that there is overwhelming evidence that organizers of a “We Build The Wall” campaign to raise millions of dollars for a wall along the U.S. southern border defrauded investors by lying to them.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Robert Sobelman urged Manhattan federal court jurors to deliver guilty verdicts on fraud and conspiracy charges against the lone defendant: Timothy Shea.
“You will quickly see that the evidence is overwhelming,” the prosecutor said as he delivered a rebuttal after defense attorney John Meringolo told the jury that an acquittal was the only fair verdict.
Jurors deliberated for a short time late Tuesday without reaching a verdict. Their work resumes Wednesday morning.
Former presidential adviser Steve Bannon was once a defendant in the case, but ex-President Donald Trump pardoned him as he left office last year. Two other defendants had pleaded guilty to charges and await sentencing.
Meringolo insisted in his closing that there were multiple ways that jurors could conclude there was reasonable doubt and that an acquittal was fair.
“There are two sides to every story,” he said. “Their story has doubt and their story has reasonable doubt.”
As he had in his opening statement a week earlier, Meringolo insisted that a company prosecutors say was created to carry out a fraud — Ranch Property Management — was not the shell company the government claimed it was. And he said prosecutors were wrong to say his client didn’t work.
“It wasn’t a shell company. Tim worked,” he said.
Sobelman and Assistant U.S. Attorney Nicolas Roos in an earlier closing argument attacked the motives of Shea, who 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.”
They maintained that Shea, of Castle Rock, Colorado, and his former codefendants siphoned money from the fund, which raised over $25 million from thousands of donors after it was created in late 2018.
“No one donates to a nonprofit thinking that the nonprofit is going to loan money to an energy drink company,” Sobelman said.
“They stole and looted from the organization,” Roos said, citing hundreds of thousands of dollars that did not go to a stretch of several miles of wall that resulted from the fundraising effort.