NEW YORK—Steve Bannon, the onetime top strategist for former President Donald Trump and recipient of a presidential pardon, on Tuesday won dismissal of an indictment that accused him of defrauding donors to a fund to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border.
U.S. District Judge Analisa Torres in Manhattan said that a dismissal was “the proper course” in light of the pardon, which Bannon received in the final hours of Trump’s presidency.
Prosecutors had argued that instead of dismissing the indictment, the judge should merely dismiss Bannon as one of the four defendants. The defendants had been charged in connection with an alleged siphoning of hundreds of thousands of dollars from the $25 million “We Build the Wall” crowdfunding campaign.
Judge Torres said the pardon was valid, and that even if Bannon did not formally admit guilt “the issuance of a pardon may carry an imputation of guilt; acceptance a confession of it.”
The office of U.S. Attorney Audrey Strauss in Manhattan declined to comment.
Bannon was “thrilled” with the indictment’s dismissal, his lawyer Robert Costello said after speaking with him.
“She certainly got the result right,” Costello said, referring to the judge. “A pardon doesn’t rewrite history…. But in this case, we’re dealing with a person who is presumed innocent by the Constitution of the United States and whose plea was not guilty, and nothing changes that history either.”
It was not immediately clear how the dismissal will affect Bannon’s co-defendants.
The defendants include Brian Kolfage, an Air Force veteran and triple amputee who led the We Build the Wall campaign.
“There is nothing I have to say about the situation,” Kolfage’s lawyer Harvey Steinberg said in an interview. “It is completely out of our hands, and within the Executive Branch’s discretion.”
By Jonathan Stempel and Karen Freifeld