LIHUE — A motion to change venue was denied by Fifth Circuit Chief Judge Randal Valenciano Tuesday in an assault case that stemmed from a Sept. 16 fight outside a Hanalei restaurant.
“(There are) a number of issues with pre-trial publicity,” said Myles Breiner, attorney for Michael Beck, 28, of Moloaa. “Death threats were being made against my client (online).”
Beck is facing one count of assault in the first degree, a Class B felony punishable by up to 10 years in prison, and one count of assault in the second degree, a Class C felony punishable by up to five years in prison.
Preliminary investigations pointed to Beck being physically attacked by multiple subjects in the parking lot of Tahiti Nui shortly after 11:30 p.m., resulting in multiple injuries to 21-year-old Miles Barsotti, of Kilauea, according to the Kauai Police Department.
Breiner pointed out an undertone of racism to the threats that surfaced online, on social media, and said he is concerned about a general feeling of hostility toward Beck from people in the community.
Valenciano acknowledged the pre-trial publicity, and though he denied the motion to change venue, he said the court would bring more people into the jury pool if necessary.
“The only matter we need to do is bring additional jurors to the standard pool. Standard pool is 50, so we can double that,” Valenciano said.
A motion to compel discovery was also entertained by the court, and Breiner used the time to point out that “all of the individuals involved” allegedly had drugs and alcohol in their systems at the time of the fight.
He also requested an “in camera review” for evidence (where the public is excluded), and Valenciano agreed, setting an 8 a.m. Feb. 15 date for the court to revisit that evidence and “release what’s allowable.”
With the permission of the court, Beck was set to leave the island for Arizona Tuesday, and his jury trial was continued until June 25.