Clifton’s attorney files for a change of venue
GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colo. In preparation for the 21-day trial of accused arsonist Robin Jay Clifton, his attorney, Arnold Mordkin, has filed a motion to change the location of the trail. Mordkin said in the motion filed with District Court Dec. 25 that pretrial publicity in the form of newspaper stories in the Post Independent have prejudiced people living in the area who could be called for jury duty in the case.Clifton, who is being held in Garfield County Jail on $500,000 bond, appeared briefly in court with his attorney Thursday morning.He is accused of setting four fires on Sept. 5, 2005, which destroyed the Rifle Amoco station and nearly destroyed the Fireside Lanes bowling alley. He also allegedly set fires that did not cause extensive damage, at a restaurant and a townhouse under construction. His trial is set to begin May 29, in what could be one of the county’s longest-running criminal trials.Mordkin and assistant District Attorney Jeff Cheney were in court Thursday to present arguments for and against two motions filed by Mordkin, including the change of venue and a motion to separate some of the 18 charges Clifton faces. In his request for a change of venue to Pitkin County, Mordkin said Clifton could not receive a fair trail in Garfield County because “the events of the alleged arson have received significant and pervasive news coverage by the Glenwood Springs Post Independent newspaper, the primary newspaper for the area … from which the jury pool in this case will be drawn.”In his response to the motion, also filed Dec. 25, Cheney noted a recent online reader poll in the Post Independent showed that only 4 percent of the respondents said the arson fires were the top news story of 2006. Coverage of the case “has not inflamed the public to the degree required” to warrant a change of venue, Cheney said.In the motion to sever charges, Mordkin asked the court to separate at trail the first eight counts – arson charges – from other related charges including criminal mischief and from five counts of being a habitual criminal.Clifton’s criminal history dates back to 1978 and includes convictions ranging from robbery to drugs to prison escape.Mordkin argued in the motion that allowing the jury to consider the habitual criminal charges at the same time as the arson charges would prejudice them when it came to reaching a verdict on the arson and related charges.Cheney recommended the judge deny the motion.Thursday, Mordkin told Cheney and District Court Judge Denise Lynch he also intended to file a motion to impose a gag order that would preclude press coverage of court proceedings in the case.Judge Lynch agreed to postpone motions arguments set for Thursday until Feb. 15 because she’d just received Cheney’s written response to Mordkin’s motions and needed time to review them.Contact Donna Gray: 945-8515, ext. email@example.comPost Independent, Glenwood Springs Colorado CO
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