May 26, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Judge dismisses Steve Bannon's fraud case after Trump pardon

Former White House Chief Strategist Steve Bannon exits the Manhattan Federal Court on August 20, 2020 in the Manhattan borough of New York City.
Former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon exits the Manhattan Federal Court in New York City in August 2020. Photo: Stephanie Keith/Getty Images

Former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon's federal fraud charges were dismissed by a federal judge in New York City on Tuesday because of his presidential pardon from former President Trump.

Why it matters: U.S. District Judge Analisa Torres' decision to dismiss the criminal charges over a scheme to privately finance a southern border wall follows a months-long legal fight over how to deal with Bannon's pardon when related cases are ongoing.

The big picture: While Trump pardoned Bannon as one of his final acts in office in January, he did not do the same for Brian Kolfage, Andrew Badolato, and Timothy Shea — all of whom were also charged for allegedly defrauding donors out of hundreds of thousands of dollars from the crowdfunding campaign.

  • Prosecutors had asked the judge to dismiss Bannon — who pleaded not guilty last year to the charges — as one of the defendants in the case, rather than dismissing the indictment.

Details: Torres noted in her order that prosecutors didn't dispute that Bannon's pardon was valid and that "it is not the practice of this district to remove a defendant from the docket without resolution of the indictment."

  • But she added that "pardon implies guilt," quoting an 1853 New Jersey Supreme Court ruling.
"'If there be no guilt, there is no ground for forgiveness … A party is acquitted on the ground of innocence, he is pardoned through favor. And upon this very ground it is that the pardoning power is never vested in a judge.'"

What they're saying: Bannon's attorney Bob Costello told the Washington Post the judge had "reached the right result." He noted to the Wall Street Journal that Bannon "has never been found guilty of anything, and he's not guilty."

  • The Manhattan U.S. attorney's office declined to comment on the ruling.

Read the judge's memorandum and order, obtained by the Court Listener, via DocumentCloud:

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