A Hennepin County judge denied a request to move the trial of a man accused of shooting five protesters at a Minneapolis police precinct in November 2015.
Allen "Lance" Scarsella, 24, requested the change of venue saying that the media attention and social media postings would prejudice a jury against him. His 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."
Hennepin County prosecutors countered that several "local news articles" submitted by the defense were Google searches for Scarsella's name, and that Freeman's statement was "marginal," and he made no comment on Scarcella's guilt or innocence. Scarsella claims he fired in self-defense.
Judge Hilary Caligiuri denied the change of venue. "This case has not generated massive pretrial publicity requiring a change of venue," she ruled.
Scarsella was charged in November of last year with shooting and wounding five demonstrators outside the Minneapolis Police Fourth Precinct station during an ongoing protest following the death of Jamar Clark, an unarmed black man killed during a struggle with police. The victims of the shooting — all black men ages 19 to 43 — were taken to hospitals with noncritical injuries. Scarsella's trial on first-degree assault and five counts of second-degree assault charges is scheduled to begin Jan. 9.
Meanwhile, attorneys for Joseph Backman, Nathan Gustavsson and Daniel Macey have each filed motions in their cases asking for the judge to throw out charges of second-degree riot and acting as an accomplice to Scarsella. They are scheduled to appear in court Jan. 31.
Scarsella remains jailed in lieu of $500,000 bail. The others have been released after posting bail.