Attorney wants fraud trial moved from Grand Junction to Denver
The court-appointed attorney for Valley Investments owner Philip Rand Lochmiller would ask to be removed from the case if it were tried in Grand Junction, attorney Daniel Smith said in court papers seeking to have the mail-and securities-fraud trial conducted in Denver.
In papers filed in response to the prosecution’s request that the trial be conducted in Grand Junction, Smith said that he would have to shut down his law practice for a six-week trial if it were conducted in Grand Junction.
A Denver trial would be more convenient because it’s more accessible by air to potential witnesses around the country and, in one case, in England, Smith said in his motion.
The Alfred Arraj Federal Courthouse in Denver federal courthouse has “facilities far superior to those available at the federal courthouse in Grand Junction, which will make a trial of this matter much more efficient and effective, not only for this defendant, but for all parties,” Smith said.
Prosecutor Michelle Heldmeyer had asked U.S. District Judge Phil Brimmer to preside over the trial in Grand Junction, citing the residence of most of the investors, witnesses and investigators in the Grand Valley.
Lochmiller, a Mack resident, his son, also Philip Rand Lochmiller, of Overland Park, Kan., and an employee, Shawnee Carver, of Grand Junction, were indicted last winter on a variety of counts in connection with the collapse of Valley Investments last fall.
Valley Investments was characterized in court papers as having been operated as a Ponzi scheme that took in more than $30 million from more than 400 investors. Investors were promised returns as high as 16 percent on their investments in affordable-housing, manufactured-housing developments in Colorado, Idaho and Utah.
Smith cited security concerns in seeking to have the trial in Denver, as well as the size of the courtroom. The Grand Junction courtroom could seat only 50 people and attorneys would be squeezed into an area too small to allow them to put on their cases, Smith said.
The trial also should be conducted elsewhere because of “pervasive and prejudicial pretrial publicity,” Smith said, citing stories in The Daily Sentinel and on local television stations.
“Whether or not a fair and impartial jury could be seated in Grand Junction cannot be determined at this time or probably until the effort is made,” Smith wrote. “One must wonder, however, what a colossal waste of money it would be to attempt to seat a jury in Grand Junction, Colorado, and fail.”
Had he been aware the trial would be conducted in Grand Junction, Smith said, he would have turned down the appointment to represent the elder Lochmiller.
Other attorneys have two weeks to file motions in the matter.
All three defendants remain free pending the trial.