- A judge has denied Elon Musk’s request to move his securities fraud trial from San Francisco to Texas.
- Musk’s lawyers argued that too many potential jurors would be biased against him after he took over San Francisco-based Twitter and immediately fired half of its staff.
- During a hearing on Friday, the presiding judge disagreed, saying Musk “has a lot of fans.”
Elon Musk has lost an offer to move an upcoming securities fraud trial to Texas from San Francisco due to concerns from a potentially biased jury.
Musk’s legal team recently asked for the trial to be moved from San Francisco, arguing that too many potential jurors would be biased against Musk after he recently took over Twitter and laid off half of its staff.
In a motion filed last Friday, Musk’s attorney, Alex Spiro, argued that “a significant portion of the jury in this district is likely to have a personal and material bias against Mr. Musk as a result of recent layoffs at one of his firms.” because individual would-be jurors — or their friends and relatives — may have been personally affected.
Spiro claimed that such bias was compounded by “negative and inflammatory local publicity” surrounding Musk’s management of Twitter, and that it would prevent Musk from getting a fair trial in the city. He petitioned that the trial be held in Texas instead; Musk moved Tesla’s headquarters from Palo Alto, California to Austin, Texas in 2021.
During a hearing on Friday, U.S. District Judge Edward Chen denied the relocation request.
“The proof is in the pudding,” Chen said according to Bloomberg. “Mr. Musk has a lot of fans there.”
After Musk’s legal team asked for the trial to be moved, lawyers for Tesla shareholders on the matter responded by making fun of Musk.
“What they describe as ‘biased’ reporting is actually an actual report on his management of Twitter, Inc. and does not affect the jury’s ability to reach a fair verdict,” attorneys Adam Apton and Adam McCall wrote. “If ‘negative’ attention were all that was needed to disqualify a jury pool, Musk would effectively be unassailable to a jury given his knack for attracting ‘negative’ reviews.”
The shareholder’s attorneys added that out of about 200 potential jurors, only two or three said they knew someone who worked for Twitter.
It concerns a class action against shareholders 2018 tweet from Musk in which he said he was considering privatizing Tesla at $420 a share and had “funds secured” to do so. When no such transaction took place, Musk paid a $20 million fine and settled fraud charges with the SEC, which accused him of making “false and misleading statements.” As part of the settlement, he neither admitted nor denied the allegations, but resigned as president of the electric car company.
The upcoming trial will determine whether Musk’s tweets affected Tesla stock, whether the company or its management should be held accountable, and whether investors are entitled to compensation.
Musk, his legal team, and Tesla did not immediately respond to requests for comment.