U. S. District Judge Earl B. Gilliam Wednesday denied a request by lawyers for Nancy Hoover Hunter that her trial on charges of fraud, conspiracy and income tax evasion be moved to San Jose.
The ruling clears the way for Hunter’s trial to begin March 28, after more than two years of motions, appeals and delays.
Hunter’s lawyers have claimed that she cannot receive a fair trial in San Diego because the public has been swayed by extensive negative publicity about Hunter over the last six years.
In denying the defense motion for a change of venue Wednesday, Gilliam said Hunter’s lawyers may renew their request during jury selection if evidence emerges that the jury pool is so tainted that a fair trial is not possible. Potential jurors are expected to be questioned extensively about their knowledge of the case and about whether they have an opinion about Hunter’s guilt or innocence.
‘Need Something Definite’
At a hearing on Tuesday, Gilliam said he did not want to base his decision on “surmise and conjecture” about the effect of pretrial publicity. “I need something definite,” Gilliam said. “I need to see people in the courtroom and ask them if they’ve heard anything about the case and if they can be fair.”
A federal grand jury indicted Hunter in November, 1986, on 234 counts of fraud, conspiracy and income tax evasion stemming from the collapse of the J. David & Co. investment firm, which has been described as a giant Ponzi scheme involving more than 1,200 investors, mostly from Southern California. Instead of investing clients’ money, the firm used money from new investors to pay off old investors.
Hunter was second-in-command at J. David and at the time of its collapse was the live-in companion of its president, J. David (Jerry) Dominelli, now serving a 20-year prison sentence for his part in the scheme.
Hunter also was indicted in March, 1988, by a federal grand jury on 56 counts of conspiracy and using the mails to sell unregistered securities. That case is pending.
Hunter pleaded guilty in April, 1986, to state charges of conspiracy to funnel thousands of dollars into Roger Hedgecock’s 1983 mayoral campaign. She was sentenced to probation, ordered to perform 350 hours of community service and fined $10,000.
She has since married Kenneth Hunter, a wealthy businessman, and lives in Montecito, an affluent community near Santa Barbara.