- Associated Press - Monday, June 9, 2014

HERNANDO, Miss. (AP) - Former Southaven Mayor Greg Davis’ trial on embezzlement charges is scheduled to open, but his lawyers are again trying to get it moved out of DeSoto County.

Circuit Judge Robert Chamberlin has scheduled jury selection Monday. He said in February that he wants to see if an impartial jury can be found in the county.

Attorney Steve Farese argues that a recent court ruling makes a fair trial less likely, the Commercial Appeal reports (http://bit.ly/1pR3fs5).

A county judge ruled May 20 that Davis must repay the city $73,000 spent on such things as clothes, expensive meals and trips.

“This decision, so close to the pending trial date of June 9, further exacerbates the defendant’s ability to seek a fair trial in a county where he has been constantly maligned for the last two years by the press and community for his decisions while mayor and his sexual orientation,” Farese wrote in the motion filed last week.

Davis told voters in 2011, after allegations of improper spending came to light, that he is gay and said he and his wife had divorced.

Davis, 48, has said he is innocent. If convicted on all charges he could face up to 35 years in prison.

Davis was mayor for 16 years. He was indicted in December 2012.

One embezzlement charge accuses him of filling the gas tank of his personal car at city gas pumps many times during 11 months when he was getting monthly mileage reimbursements. The second accuses him of buying a $43,000 SUV from the dealer for $10,000 after its city lease had expired, without getting the city’s approval.

The false pretenses charge alleges that Mississippi State University’s political action committee never got $1,000 in city money that Davis was given to pay its dues.

Davis’ attorneys also have asked the court for permission to film and/or photograph prospective jurors.

“The purpose of this request is to assure both the state and the defendant be given the opportunity to fully evaluate, by sight and sound, potential jurors in this high profile trial,” the motion states.

The motion states that none of the images would become public and all would be deleted or destroyed after jury selection.

DeSoto County District Attorney John Champion said he could not comment on the pretrial motions or say much about the trial before it begins.

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