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Brian Kolfage court date in Pensacola moved from March to September to accommodate federal trial

Published on: 02/17/2022


PENSACOLA — Brian Kolfage , the local wounded warrior facing federal fraud, money laundering and tax charges in courts in Florida and New York, no longer is set for trial in the two courts within what had been a matter of just over three months.

Under the terms of recent orders issued by judges in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Florida and the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, the Air Force veteran who lost both legs and his right hand in a 2004 rocket attack in Iraq appears still to be set for trial on money laundering conspiracy and fraud conspiracy charges in the New York court on May 16.

However, U.S. District Judge M. Casey Rodgers in Pensacola has moved Kolfage's trial on two charges of filing a false tax return and one charge of wire fraud from March 7 to Sept. 6.

Kolfage is facing the New York charges in connection with allegations that donations to the Florida nonprofit organization he created — We Build The Wall Inc., which solicited donations for privately funded construction of sections of wall along the U.S.-Mexico border — were improperly steered to him by codefendants that had included former White House political strategist Steve Bannon. Bannon was pardoned last year by President Donald Trump in the waning hours of his administration, but two codefendants remain in the case.

Kolfage is alleged to have improperly received $350,000 in the scheme. The Florida charges are related to that circumstance in that they allege Kolfage failed to report income from the nonprofit and other sources on his federal tax return.

Rodgers' order to move Kolfage's trial in Pensacola from March to September comes in connection with a motion filed by Kolfage's counsel, Colorado attorney Kenneth M. Harmon.

In the motion seeking a 180-day delay, Harmon noted that Kolfage "remains focused on preparing an effective defense in the Southern District of New York" where an indictment was handed down in August 2020, well ahead of the indictments handed down against him in Florida in May and July of last year.

Harmon further argued that "not allowing trial of this case (in Florida) to take place after the completion of trial proceedings in the Southern District of New York, it is respectfully submitted, will deny Mr. Kolfage’s defense team, and Mr. Kolfage, the reasonable time necessary for effective preparation in defending this (Florida) case."

Brian Kolfage talks with supporters following a court proceeding last year in U.S. District Court in Pensacola. Kolfage had been set to go on trial next month in Pensacola on federal tax charges, but those proceedings have been moved to September to allow Kolfage and his counsel to prepare for a separate federal trial set for May in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York. Harmon added in his motion that if the Florida case went to trial in March, Kolfage would "face the renewed prospect of essentially having to prepare for a defense in both cases simultaneously, with two different defense teams in different states, a set of circumstances that jeopardizes mounting an effective defense in both cases."

Harmon's motion was unopposed by prosecutors for the U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Florida, court records show. On that point, Harmon wrote in his motion that "counsel for both parties recognize that resolving the Southern District of New York first will enable both sides to more efficiently and effectively assess how to address the instant case (the Florida case) going forward."

In her two-page ruling on Harmon's motion, Rodgers noted that "failure to grant the requested continuance would deny the Defendant a reasonable time to effectively prepare for trial," and added that that "... a reasonable delay of trial from March 7, 2022, to September 6, 2022, is appropriate ... . The ends of justice that will be served by granting this continuance outweigh the interest of the public and the Defendant in a more speedy trial."

Meanwhile, in the New York case, a recent filing by Judge Analisa Torres informed prosecutors and attorneys for Kolfage and his codefendants, Florida financier Andrew Badolato and Colorado businessman Timothy Shea, that current COVID-19-related protocol in the court prohibits criminal trials of more than two defendants at a single time.

Accordingly, Torres' asked the attorneys to decide which defendants should be tried together and which should be tried alone.

In a Monday filing, prosecutors indicated that they are "in the final stages of discussions about a pretrial resolution of the case" against Badolato "and do not anticipate that a trial on the charges against Mr. Badolato will be necessary."

In a filing addressing that response, Torres indicated that she will ask that Kolfage and Shea be tried together in proceedings set for May 16, and will ask that the trial for Badolato, if needed, be set for June 6.

This article originally appeared on Northwest Florida Daily News: Brian Kolfage trial date in Pensacola moved from March to September

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