An indictment against Steve Bannon was dismissed Tuesday over the objection of prosecutors who said it should stand despite ex-President Donald Trump's decision to pardon his former chief strategist.
The dismissal came in a written ruling by U.S. District Judge Analisa Torres, who called it the “proper course.”
The Manhattan jurist said it was not the practice of the region's federal courts to remove a defendant from a case’s docket without resolving the indictment. And she noted that the pardon does not by itself render a defendant innocent of the alleged crime nor eliminate probable cause of guilt.
"To the contrary, from the country’s earliest days, courts, including the Supreme Court, have acknowledged that even if there is no formal admission of guilt, the issuance of a pardon may ‘carr(y) an imputation of guilt; acceptance a confession of it,’” she wrote, partially quoting a 1915 court ruling.
A spokesperson for prosecutors declined comment.
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Bannon’s attorney, Robert Costello, said in an email: “We are delighted that the Judge reached the right conclusion. Winning always beats the alternative. An unconditional pardon is final and it merits the finality of a dismissed indictment.”
Bannon had pleaded not guilty to charges alleging he and three others defrauded donors in a $25 million fund to build a wall along the nation's southern border. In July, lawyers for others charged in the case are to submit potential trial dates for later this year.
After Trump's last-minute decision to pardon Bannon before leaving office in January, prosecutors asked the judge to let the indictment against him stand, saying it could leave ill effects on Bannon even without a conviction.
They wrote that dismissing the indictment “could have a broader effect than the pardon itself, among other things potentially relieving Bannon of certain consequences not covered by the pardon.”
As an example of lingering consequences of an outlying indictment, the government noted that a commodity broker’s application was denied and an instance in which a pardon did not preclude the government from considering the charged conduct in evaluating permit applications.
Prosecutors wrote to the judge after Bannon's lawyers requested that the indictment be dismissed.
In August 2020, Bannon was arrested aboard a luxury yacht off the coast of Connecticut. He was freed on $5 million bail.
Prosecutors said he duped thousands of investors into thinking all of their money went to the wall project even as Bannon diverted more than a million dollars, paying salary to one campaign official and personal expenses for himself.