- Associated Press - Friday, January 24, 2014

DOVER, Del. (AP) - Attorneys for relatives of a man who killed two people at a Delaware courthouse are asking a judge to move their trial on federal conspiracy and stalking charges to another state, arguing that otherwise they won’t get a fair trial.

Attorneys for former optometrist David Matusiewicz, 46, his mother, Lenore, 68, and sister Amy Gonzalez, 40, cited widespread news media attention to last February’s shootings at the New Castle County Courthouse, as well as to events involving the Matusiewicz family before and since. They have asked that the trial, currently scheduled for October in Wilmington, be held outside Delaware.

“It is fair to say that the pretrial publicity in this case has reached all corners of Delaware, and all ages and socioeconomic groups, given that the news media coverage has been constant, pervasive, and carried by all television, print, radio, and Internet media outlets in this region,” federal public defenders representing David Matusiewicz wrote.

“Coverage has been slanted to the prosecution in connecting Mr. Matusiewicz and/or the entire family to the shooting, and magnifying Mr. Matusiewicz’s role,” they said, adding, “As this case goes forward, there will be a continued infection of the limited jury pool in this district.”

Prosecutors declined to comment on the change of venue motions filed last week, other than to say they will respond by a Feb. 14 deadline established in a previous scheduling order.

The defendants are charged with conspiracy and stalking of David Matusiewicz’s ex-wife, Christine Belford. Belford, 39, and a friend, Laura Mulford, 47, were fatally shot by David Matusiewicz’s father, Thomas Matusiewicz, on Feb. 11 after they arrived at the courthouse for a child support hearing. Thomas Matusiewicz, 68, then exchanged gunfire with court security officers before killing himself.

Thomas Matusiewicz’s widow and children, who could face life in prison if convicted of the alleged stalking that resulted in Belford’s death, have repeatedly denied having any knowledge of his plans to kill her.

“At the trial of this matter, the government must prove that Thomas Matusiewicz’ shooting of Christine Belford was somehow caused as a result of the interstate and cyberstalking activities of the named defendants,” wrote Kenneth Edelin Jr., an attorney representing Lenore Matusiewicz.

“Since the media has consistently reported the shooting of Christine Belford every time it reports on any of the named defendants for any reason, the state of Delaware media market and/or jury pool has been tainted,” Edelin added. “Simply put, the media has all but told the jury pool that the shooting death of Christine Belford is connected to the stalking conduct charged in the instant indictment.” Consequently, the defendants cannot receive a fair trial in Delaware, the motion said.

In addition to joining in the requests for a change of venue, Gonzalez’s attorney is asking that her trial be severed from that of her co-defendants. Attorney Jeremy Ibrahim said in court papers that it was clear from the government’s case that David and Lenore Matusiewicz “bear significantly more culpability.”

Ibrahim pointed specifically to David and Lenore Matusiewicz’s roles in the 2007 kidnapping of David Matusiewicz’s three daughters from Belford during a bitter custody dispute. David Matusiewicz pleaded guilty in 2009 to federal fraud and kidnapping charges after he and his mother took the girls to Central America. He and his mother, who served more than a year in state prison for child endangerment, have said they were trying to protect one of the daughters from being sexually abused by Belford.

“Although Mrs. Gonzalez was not charged with those events, the indictment now aims at inculpating her in that criminal conduct that her co-defendants have admitted,” Ibrahim wrote.

Copyright © 2016 The Washington Times, LLC.

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