Judge on Steve Bannon trial: 'We can't keep dragging this out'

Bannon is charged with defrauding donors to We Build the Wall.

February 28, 2023, 4:23 PM

Steve Bannon, a former adviser to Donald Trump, appeared in court Tuesday with a new crop of lawyers who promptly decried the "explosion" of evidence disclosures from the Manhattan District Attorney's Office and asked for additional time to review them.

"Now we have 32 terabytes of discovery," defense attorney Harlan Protass said. "We, like prior counsel, need time to get our hands around that discovery before we are able to set a motion schedule."

Bannon, who appeared in a black jacket over a black untucked button down, is charged with defrauding donors to We Build the Wall, an online fundraising mechanism for former President Trump's signature domestic project.

PHOTO: Steve Bannon, former adviser to President Donald Trump, points as he speaks after leaving a court appearance at NYS Supreme Court on Feb. 28, 2023, in New York City.
Steve Bannon, former adviser to President Donald Trump, points as he speaks after leaving a court appearance at NYS Supreme Court on Feb. 28, 2023, in New York City.
Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images

Bannon hired new lawyers after his prior counsel, David Schoen and John Mitchell, withdrew, citing "a complete breakdown in communication" with their client. The new attorneys sought a 90-day delay.

"All of us at this table are experienced at doing complicated cases," defense attorney John F. Carman said. "We have to, in some general sense, get our arms around what we're talking about."

The judge granted a 90-day reprieve and ordered Bannon to return to court May 25, citing a need to "move the case along" after Bannon's arraignment five months ago.

"Other than discovery being turned over, nothing has happened. Part of that is of Mr. Bannon's own doing," Judge Juan Merchan said. "We can't just keep dragging this out."

The judge, however, chided prosecutors over the true volume of discovery and the pace of its disclosure to the defense.

"What is the number really the defense is dealing with?" Merchan asked.

Assistant District Attorney Daniel Passeser struggled to explain the varying sources of evidence and size of the files.

"I don't think it's for you to decide what's important or relevant for the defense to look at," Merchan said.

In another potential shakeup in the case, the attorney for We Build the Wall asked to resign from the case, arguing the entity no longer functions or employs anyone.

"The human beings associated with We Build the Wall have all resigned," defense attorney Justin Weddle said. "There will be no people with whom I can communicate."

Prosecutors objected.

"We only found out about this 10 minutes ago," Passeser said.

Merchan declined to immediately grant the motion and ordered Weddle to return to court March 16.

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