Elon Musk’s lawyers argued in their bid get his securities fraud trial moved out of San Francisco that 82% of all the prospective jurors who have an opinion of the billionaire view him negatively.
Questionnaires from almost 200 would-be jurors returned to the federal judge handling the case reinforce the argument that the Northern California jury pool for the trial starting next week “is biased against Mr. Musk,” and that much of the bias relates to claims in the lawsuit — “namely, Mr. Musk’s use of and honesty on Twitter,” his lawyers said.
The latest filing by the Tesla Inc. CEO and new owner of Twitter Inc. is part of his push to get the case brought by Tesla shareholders moved somewhere else, preferably Texas, due to “local negativity” in San Francisco after Musk recently slashed Twitter’s workforce in his effort to remake the social media platform.
Investors allege Musk’s August 2018 tweets about taking the electric-car maker private with “funding secured” were “indisputably false” and cost them billions of dollars by spurring wild swings in Tesla’s stock price. Musk has maintained that Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund had agreed to support his attempt to take Tesla private.
The questionnaires, which are not publicly available, show that potential jurors don’t just dislike Musk but feel a “passion” of negativity, his lawyers said in the filing. Details of what the jurors wrote are redacted.
The responses reveal “not only that a vast majority of potential jurors hold ill-will toward Mr. Musk but that they are not afraid to declare it proudly and vividly to the court,” his lawyers said.
Lawyers for the shareholders have argued that Musk is a celebrity who garners media attention around the globe – much of it negative – and that his presence on Twitter is partly to blame for that.
But the investors’ attorneys also said none of the would-be jurors work for Twitter and only two or three prospective panelists know someone employed by the company.
“The potential for bias arising out of Musk’s management of Twitter is non-existent,” they said.
A hearing on Musk’s request to move the case is scheduled for Friday and the trial is set to begin Jan. 17.
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