By Larry Neumeister, The Associated Press
NEW YORK — A Colorado businessman charged in a “We Build The Wall” fraud case that once included onetime presidential adviser Steve Bannon among defendants wants his October retrial moved from New York to Colorado to save money and spare him from what his lawyer says is bias from political polarization he’ll otherwise face.
Attorney John Meringolo wrote in papers submitted to a Manhattan federal court judge late Monday that Timothy Shea cannot get a fair and impartial retrial in New York.
He also asked that the retrial be moved from Oct. 24 to early December, saying prosecutors have recently produced a previously seized laptop computer taken from Shea’s Castle Rock, Colorado, residence that contains an email exchange not introduced at the first trial, which ended in June with a deadlocked jury.
In requesting a change of venue, Meringolo cited what he called the “obviously politically charged atmosphere of the jury room” at the first trial and said the effect of “political polarization” became obvious when the trial ended in a mistrial after 11 jurors tried to force one juror off the panel, saying he possessed political bias.
A similar venue-change request was denied before Shea’s first trial. Meringolo said the first trial was an immense financial burden for his client and a move would enable him to have witnesses who live closer to Colorado testify on his behalf.
Shea has pleaded not guilty to charges that he cheated thousands of donors who contributed $25 million to a campaign to build a wall along the southern U.S. border.
Shea stood trial alone after Bannon, a onetime adviser to then-President Donald Trump, was pardoned. Two other defendants pleaded guilty. The case was prosecuted in New York after it was determined that donors to the fund were from everywhere in the country, including New York.
Conspiracy and falsification of records charges against Shea were filed after questions arose over how donations were spent from the “We Build The Wall” campaign. Only a few miles of wall were built.
Shea 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.”
Prosecutors declined through a spokesperson to comment on the defense requests.