Elon Musk’s lawyers argued in their bid to get his securities fraud trial out of San Francisco that 82% of all prospective jurors with an opinion on the billionaire viewed him negatively.
Questions from nearly 200 jurors returned by the federal judge presiding over the case bolster the argument that Northern California jury pool for the trial beginning next week is “biased against Mr. Musk,” and that most of the prejudice relates to the claims in the lawsuit — “namely, Mr. Musk’s use and honesty of Twitter,” said his lawyers.
The latest filing of Tesla Inc. CEO and new owner of Twitter Inc. part of his push to move the lawsuit brought by Tesla shareholders elsewhere, preferably in Texas, because of “local negativity” in San Francisco after Musk recently slammed Twitter workers for his effort to rebuild the social media platform.
Investors accused Musk’s tweets in August 2018 about taking the electric-car maker private with “secured funding” as “undisputed lies” and costing it billions of dollars by prompting wild swings in Tesla’s stock price. Musk maintains that Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund has agreed to back his attempt to take Tesla private.
The questions, which are not available to the public, show that potential jurors not only dislike Musk but feel an “inclination” toward negativity, his lawyers said in the filing. Details of what the jurors wrote have been redacted.
The responses revealed “not only that the majority of potential jurors have ill will toward Mr. Musk but that they are not afraid to express it proudly and clearly to the court,” his lawyers said.
Lawyers for the shareholders argue that Musk is a celebrity who gets media attention around the world – much of it negative – and that his Twitter presence is partly to blame for that.
But lawyers for the investors also said none of the potential jurors worked at Twitter and only two or three prospective panelists knew someone who worked at the company.
“The potential for bias arising from Musk’s handling 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 scheduled to begin on January 17.
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