Valley Investments trial will be held in Denver
Western Slope residents who lost money in Valley Investments will be able to watch the trial via closed-circuit television in Grand Junction, but the trial will be conducted in Denver.
U.S. District Judge Philip A. Brimmer ruled Friday the fraud and conspiracy trial of Valley Investments owner Philip Rand Lochmiller will take place in Denver.
Prosecutors had sought to conduct the trial in Grand Junction, contending the investors, most of them elderly, could more easily attend a trial in Grand Junction than one in Denver.
The ruling didn’t sit well with one investor, Carolyn White.
“I do not like that,” White said. “It makes me extremely displeased that we can’t be there and look these men in the eye” during the trial.
White is among more than 400 investors who lost more than $30 million in the failure of Valley Investments in 2009.
Lochmiller never informed investors that he was sentenced to prison in 1986 in California for securities fraud, court documents say.
Brimmer ruled that a Denver courtroom is better suited to the presentation of the thousands of documents that comprise much of the case.
“Ultimately,” Brimmer said, “considerations regarding the venue of this trial must focus on those who will decide it, the jurors.”
Jurors will be better served to view electronic presentations of the documents in Denver instead of in Grand Junction, where there is a lack of room for displays, projection screens or monitors, Brimmer said.
Documents filling more than 100 bankers boxes and thousands of financial records will be used in the trial, Brimmer noted.
A $12.3 million refurbishment of the interior of the Wayne N. Aspinall Federal Building is slated to start in February, shortly before the trial is set to begin.
“Although the renovation project will not necessarily disable the courtroom, the renovations will impact the ability of the court to conduct a lengthy trial without interruptions,” Brimmer wrote.
In addition, noise and dust could affect the conduct of the trial, Brimmer said.
Lochmiller, who is represented by a court-appointed attorney in Denver, had sought to have the trial conducted there.
Lochmiller’s stepson, also Philip Rand Lochmiller, pleaded guilty last month to a count of conspiracy to commit securities and mail fraud and one count of money laundering. He faces as many as 15 years in prison, but he won’t be sentenced until after the completion of the elder Lochmiller’s trial.
A third defendant, Shawnee Carver, is scheduled to enter a guilty plea next week before Brimmer in Denver.