Prosecutor lobbies to keep Valley Investments trial in Grand Junction
Conducting the trial of Valley Investments owner Philip Rand Lochmiller and two others in Grand Junction would make it possible for investors, many of whom are elderly, to attend, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said.
The average age of the investors is 70, and 63 of them are 80 or more years old, and seven are in their 90s, the prosecutor’s office said in a motion asking that hearings and any trial be conducted in Grand Junction.
“No doubt the vast majority of victims will choose whether to attend the trial based solely on the trial’s location,” the motion by Assistant U.S. Attorney Michelle Heldmyer said. “The travel involved, both in the distance and the terrain, pose a nearly insurmountable problem for a large number of the victims, as does the cost of accommodations for the length of the trial.”
The expense and hardship of travel would prevent some or most of the investors from attending the trial, Heldmyer said.
U.S. District Judge Philip Brimmer will decide whether to conduct the case in Denver or Grand Junction.
Lochmiller’s attorney, Daniel T. Smith of Denver, said he had accepted the appointment to represent Lochmiller in the belief the trial would be conducted in Denver, but he told Magistrate Judge Gudrun Rice he would deal with that issue later.
Lochmiller, his son, Philip Rand Lochmiller Jr., and Valley Investments’ employee Shawnee Carver all face several charges related to mail and securities fraud.
While investigators have identified approximately 400 separate investments in Valley Investments, most of them represent more than one person, involving husbands, wives or other family members, Heldmyer said.
“Therefore, actual victims likely total 1,000 or more, the vast majority of whom live in or near Grand Junction,” she said in the motion.
Other than 11 investors who live on the Front Range, no other victims, defendants, or witnesses live in the Denver area, the motion says.
Seventy-three investors live outside Colorado, including 11 in Moab, Utah, the motion says.
The prosecution expects to call more than 50 witnesses in a trial lasting more than four weeks.
“The entire prosecution team lives, works and conducted the investigation in Grand Junction,” the motion says.
The federal government would have to pay transportation, lodging and per diem costs to conduct the trial in Denver, the motion says.
Anticipating the possibility Lochmiller and the other defendants oppose conducting proceedings in Grand Junction, Heldmyer noted that trials in the Enron case were conducted in Houston, and the World Trade Center bombing trial was in New York City, where the crimes occurred.
Jurors could be drawn from 15 Western Slope counties for a trial in Grand Junction, Heldmyer said.
“While the publicity has been intense, it has been, for the most part a local phenomenon,” Heldmyer said. “It would be difficult to argue that the court could not find 12 jurors among these counties who could not be fair and impartial.”