We Build The Wall organizers Brian Kolfage, Andrew Badolato, and Timothy Shea pleaded not guilty Monday, Aug. 31, before Judge Analisa Torres after prosecutors accused them of defrauding thousands of donors with a fundraising campaign, Fox News reported recently.
Former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon had already pleaded not guilty in federal court in Manhattan in early August. However, on Aug. 20, New York’s justice system released a warrant for the businessman’s arrest.
As reported by the Justice Department, an indictment by New York City prosecutors Audrey Strauss and Philip R. Bartlett led to the arrest of Steve Bannon and three other suspects. According to the report, Strauss and Bartlett charged the four defendants with their alleged roles in defrauding thousands of donors in connection with an online fundraising campaign known as We Build the Wall that raised more than $25 million.
According to the Justice Department, Bartlett said the defendants allegedly committed fraud when they misrepresented the actual use of the donated funds. Thus, not only would they have lied to the donors, but they allegedly hid their embezzlement by creating false invoices and accounts to launder the donations and cover up their crimes.
The defendants are charged with conspiracy to commit fraud, and there is also a charge of conspiracy to commit money laundering, each of which carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison.
Kolfage, founder of the association We Build The Wall, denounced on his Facebook account, that he feels like a political prisoner and victim of a real “witch hunt” against the Trump administration and all those who once had contact with his campaign, like Bannon and his colleagues. He assures that justice will never investigate their friends like the Clinton Foundation. “We cannot let the armed justice system take more political prisoners,” the message ends.
The witch hunt is on! I'm not going to be bullied into being a political prisoner for my beliefs. I have fought hard for…
So far all the charges constitute mere accusations, and the evidence presented has yet to be proven. By law, the accused are presumed innocent until they are proven guilty through a trial.
The judge in charge of the case, Dr. Analisa Torres, said that the trial of the defendants is set for May 24, 2021. In the meantime, the four defendants had to attend a virtual court hearing on Monday where they proclaimed their innocence.