Judge rules Scarsella can receive fair trial in Hennepin County

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

A Hennepin County District Court Judge ruled today against a motion by the defense lawyers for Alan Scarsella to move his January trial to another county because of pre-trial publicity.

Scarsella was charged last year with shooting and wounding five demonstrators outside the Minneapolis Police Fourth Precinct station. His trial on first-degree assault and five counts of second-degree assault charges is scheduled to begin Jan. 9.

Early last month, Scarsella’s attorneys filed a motion for a change of venue, claiming that the news stories, headlines and social media postings would prejudice a jury against Scarsella. The defense attorneys also pointed to comments from Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman at the time he announced the charges and said Scarsella was “sick” and “a white supremacist.”

Assistant Hennepin County Attorneys Judith Hawley and Christopher Freeman (no relation to Mike Freeman) filed a brief on Nov. 21 opposing the possibility of moving the trial to another county. They noted that a significant amount of the “local news articles” submitted by the defense were not news articles at all. Some were merely searches through Google for Scarsella’s name. And Mike Freeman’s statement was “marginal,” and he made no comment on Scarcella’s guilt or innocence, according to the prosecution’s brief.

Hennepin County District Court Judge Hilary Caligiuri agreed with the prosecutors and ruled “this case has not generated massive pre-trial publicity requiring a change of venue.”

A pre-trial hearing for Scarsella is scheduled for Wednesday afternoon.

Scarsella - Motion to change venue (PDF)