Pardoned by Trump, Steve Bannon now eyes prison in the Manhattan DAs do-over of feds' 'We Build the Wall' case
- Steve Bannon will reportedly turn himself in on Thursday to Manhattan prosecutors.
- He could get at least a year in prison on state charges he stole from 'We Build the Wall.'
Steve Bannon would face a mandatory minimum sentence of one year in state prison if the Manhattan DA's new "We Build the Wall" donor-scam prosecution closely mirrors the federal case that Donald Trump pardoned him for early last year.
As first reported by The Washington Post, the right-wing political strategist and one-time Trump White House adviser is expected to surrender in Manhattan early Thursday on a state-level criminal indictment that picks up where his former boss' pardon left off.
The new indictment is reportedly based on the same border wall donation scam that the feds arrested Bannon on two summers ago, when he was memorably taken into custody aboard a $28 million yacht off the coast of Connecticut.
The feds' indictment had alleged that Bannon conspired with Air Force vet and triple amputee Brian Kolfage and two other men, turning their 2018 crowdfunded charity, "We Build the Wall," into a personal money-making machine.
Donors had been assured on GoFundMe and in other public statements that 100% of their donations would be used to build 300 miles of wall on private land on the US-Mexico border; ultimately just three miles of fencing was constructed by the group, the feds claimed.
Bannon and the others, meanwhile, diverted more than $1 million out of the charity's $25 million in donations for their personal use, the federal wire fraud and money laundering conspiracy case alleged.
That $1-million-dollar mark is significant under New York state law, notes former Manhattan prosecutor Jeremy Saland.
It's the threshold for a charge of first-degree grand larceny. Convictions on that charge come with a mandatory minimum sentence of one year in state prison and a maximum sentence of 25 years.
"They can certainly charge him with the taking of that $1 million plus, even if he did not personally have his hands on all that money," Saland told Insider.
"Bannon can be charged with grand larceny in the first degree if, as the feds had said, he was either the principal in the theft or acted in concert with others to take more than a million dollars," said Saland, now in private practice as Saland Law.
Other possible felony charges include scheme to defraud, money laundering and falsifying business records, though first-degree grand larceny would theoretically be the top charge.
Bannon's lawyers may try to fight the case on jurisdictional grounds.
None of the banks that the feds alleged the stolen donations moved through are based in New York, and only a handful of those impacted by the scam are likely to be Manhattan residents.
But a double-jeopardy challenge may have slim chances, Saland said.
Although a state judge threw out the Manhattan DA's case against former Trump campaign chair Paul Manafort on double-jeopardy grounds after his federal mortgage fraud conviction was zapped by yet another Trump pardon, the Bannon case would be different.
Unlike Manafort, Bannon was pardoned before he was ever tried or convicted in federal court.
"Bannon is not 'jeopardized-out,'" Saland said.