Back in 2018, there was quite a bit of excitement among border security enthusiasts when disabled Air Force veteran Brian Kolfage launched a GoFundMe campaign to finance the private construction of sections of the southern border wall. While doubts were raised about the credibility of the effort from the beginning, the fund quickly grew to more than $25 million and plans for starting the construction work quickly took shape. Kolfage soon attracted the help of Steve Bannon, Andrew Badolato, and Timothy Shea to manage the task. Most of you know how the story turned out after that. Portions of the wall actually were built, but allegations of fiscal impropriety soon followed and Kolfage and Bannon were eventually charged with conspiracy to commit wire fraud and money laundering. Other charges followed for the other principal organizers.

Bannon was eventually pardoned by Donald Trump while Kolfage and Badolato entered guilty pleas earlier this year. The trial of Timothy Shea moved forward, however. This week, that trial came to an end when the jury convinced the judge that they were hopelessly deadlocked and U.S. District Judge Analisa Torres declared a mistrial. Prosecutors plan to try it again, but that won’t happen immediately. (Associated Press)

The trial of a Colorado businessman on charges that he ripped off thousands of donors who contributed $25 million to a campaign to build a wall along the southern U.S. border ended Tuesday in a mistrial after jurors could not reach a unanimous verdict.

The mistrial in the prosecution of Timothy Shea was granted by U.S. District Judge Analisa Torres after the jury reported for a third time that it could not reach a verdict on any count, saying the deadlock was “abundantly clear.” They said extended deliberations had left them “further entrenched in our opposing views.”

Prosecutors said they were ready to retry the case, though it was unlikely a retrial would occur before the fall.

There was reportedly a lot of wrath and acrimony in the jury room. Eleven of the jurors were ready to find Shea guilty, but one juror refused to be persuaded. The others accused the 12th juror of politicizing the case, saying he had accused them of antigovernment bias and labeling them all as liberals. They asked the judge to replace him with an alternate juror, but after interviewing him, she declined to do so.

Back in 2019, I was sounding the alarm about Kolfage, while doing my best to offer him the benefit of the doubt. He already had an established history of raising funds for supposedly good causes only to have some of the money disappear, presumably into his own pockets. But with so many eyes on this project, many of us simply assumed that he wouldn’t dare try to pull a fast one.

It clearly turned out that we were wrong. Between Kolfage and Bannon, more than one and a half million dollars went toward their own personal expenses after promising that every dime would be spent on construction efforts. It was a serious disappointment.

Shea’s level of involvement and potential misuse of funds has always been less clear. But the prosecutors obviously feel that they gathered and presented enough evidence to make their case. If another attempt is made in the fall, Shea might not find a jury with an avid Trump supporter on it and the results may be different.

In the meantime, the few miles of the border wall that the group managed to accomplish were more symbolic than practical or functional. The wall still contains vast gaps as the ongoing Biden border crisis clearly shows. We could have continued working on that wall even after Donald Trump left office, but the Democrats weren’t going to let it happen. We Build the Wall was an inspiring idea at first, but now it looks more like a symbol of our national failure to secure our own borders.

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