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Now we know when Steve Bannon will stand trial in the We Build the Wall fraud case

Steve Bannon in NYC

Steve Bannon, former advisor to former President Donald Trump arrives at the NY District Attorney’s office to turn himself in on Sept. 8, 2022, in New York City. (Photo by David Dee Delgado/Getty Images)

Former Donald Trump strategist Steve Bannon will stand trial next year for allegedly defrauding donors of a charity initiated to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border, a Manhattan judge said on Thursday.

The brief hearing lasted a matter of minutes to schedule important dates on the road to Bannon’s trial, slated for May 27, 2024.

Bannon and his former company, We Build the Wall, have been under indictment in New York since February 2022. The six-count indictment accuses Bannon of money laundering, conspiracy and scheme to defraud. He has pleaded not guilty.

Though not identical, the charges broadly mirror those brought by federal prosecutors against Bannon and his now-convicted associates Brian Kolfage, Andrew Badolato and Timothy Shea. Trump pardoned Bannon, and only Bannon, of those federal fraud and money laundering conspiracy offenses during the twilight of his presidency.

Now, all three of those erstwhile co-defendants stand convicted of federal crimes.

Kolfage and Badolato copped to plea deals, but Shea opted to stand trial, which ended in a guilty verdict on a second try. Kolfage received a four-year sentence. Badolato, who was a friend and business associate of Bannon’s, got three years. Shea will be sentenced in June.

Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg (D) indicted Bannon of similar crimes under the doctrine of separate sovereigns, which holds that double jeopardy does not apply in cases of separate jurisdictions.

Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Juan Merchan, who is presiding over both Bannon’s criminal case and Trump’s, previously eyed a November 2023 trial date for Bannon. Trump’s trial date was recently set for March 25, 2024. It isn’t currently clear what caused the postponement, though a prosecutor noted during the hearing that both sides agreed to the schedule.

The DA’s office didn’t immediately respond to an email requesting clarification.

We Build the Wall had claimed that every penny collected would go toward the crowdfunding effort, but in a sentencing filing in Kolfage’s case, federal prosecutors claimed that Bannon and his associates “stole” six figures from what they raised.

“Bannon, Badolato, and Shea weren’t mere conduits to Kolfage, they also stole hundreds of thousands of dollars from WBTW donors themselves,” prosecutors wrote in a sentencing brief.

Bragg’s office did not accuse Bannon of grand larceny, and the DA did not allege — as federal prosecutors did — that Bannon steered $1 million of donor money to his company, identified in court papers as Citizens of the American Republic (COAR), formed as a non-profit.

Federal prosecutors called COAR an “intermediary” used to “funnel money stolen” from We Build the Wall to Kolfage while “concealing its original (fraudulent) source.”

Former federal prosecutor Mitchell Epner noted that Bannon could face significant sentencing exposure.

“With no prior felony convictions, Bannon would face a minimum of 1-3 years if convicted of Second Degree money laundering (which could be suspended) and a maximum of 5-15 years,” said Epner, a partner at Rottenberg Lipman Rich PC.

Epner believed that the federal sentences of Bannon’s associates would make it less likely that for a judge to be lenient on Bannon, if he were convicted.

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Law&Crime's managing editor Adam Klasfeld has spent more than a decade on the legal beat. Previously a reporter for Courthouse News, he has appeared as a guest on NewsNation, NBC, MSNBC, CBS's "Inside Edition," BBC, NPR, PBS, Sky News, and other networks. His reporting on the trial of Ghislaine Maxwell was featured on the Starz and Channel 4 documentary "Who Is Ghislaine Maxwell?" He is the host of Law&Crime podcast "Objections: with Adam Klasfeld."