- A judge has denied Elon Musk’s request to move his securities fraud trial from San Francisco to Texas.
- Musk’s attorneys had claimed too many potential jurors would be biased against him after he took over San Francisco-based Twitter and quickly fired half of its staff.
- In a hearing on Friday, the presiding judge disagreed, saying Musk “has a lot of fans.”
Elon Musk has lost his bid to move his upcoming Texas securities fraud trial from San Francisco due to concerns about a potentially biased jury.
Musk’s legal team recently asked to move the trial out of San Francisco, arguing that too many potential jurors would be biased against Musk after he recently took over Twitter and fired half his staff.
In a motion filed last Friday, Musk’s attorney, Alex Spiro, argued that a “substantial portion of the jury pool in this district is likely to have a personal and material bias against Mr. Musk as a result recent layoffs at one of his companies as individual prospective jurors — or their friends and relatives — may have been personally affected.
Spiro claimed that this bias was compounded by “negative and inflammatory local publicity” around Musk’s handling of Twitter and that it would have been impossible for Musk to get a fair trial in the city. He requested that the trial be held in Texas instead; Musk moved Tesla’s headquarters from Palo Alto, California to Austin, Texas in 2021.
In 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 to move the trial, attorneys for Tesla shareholders in the case responded by mocking Musk.
“What they call ‘biased’ coverage is actually a factual report about his handling of Twitter, Inc., and has no bearing on the jury’s ability to reach a fair verdict,” attorneys Adam Apton wrote. and Adam McCall. “If ‘negative’ attention were all that was needed to disqualify a group of jurors, Musk would effectively be impossible to judge in front of a jury given his talent for attracting ‘negative’ coverage.”
The shareholder’s attorneys added that of about 200 potential jurors, only two or three said they knew someone who worked for Twitter.
The shareholder class action concerns a 2018 tweet from Musk in which he said he was considering taking Tesla private at $420 per share and had “secure funding” to do so. In the absence of such an agreement, 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 chairman of the electric car company.
The upcoming lawsuit will determine whether Musk’s tweets affected Tesla’s stock, whether the company or its board should be held liable, and whether investors are entitled to damages.
Musk, his legal team and Tesla did not immediately respond to requests for comment.