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Change of venue proposed in FIJI hazing case

COLUMBIA, Mo. (KMIZ)

One of the men accused of hazing a pledge at a former University of Missouri fraternity asked Tuesday for a change of venue in his criminal case.

Benjamin Karl, who is accused of taking part in the alleged hazing incident that left Danny Santulli unable to see, walk and talk, made an appearance in a Boone County courtroom Tuesday.

Karl's lawyer Benjamin Faber said they are seeking an opportunity for a fair trial because the heavy circulation of social media posts about the case and intense media attention after Santulli's alcohol poisoning.

"There's been substantial amounts of media coverage in this case," Faber told Judge Josh Devine. "There's a petition online signed by 120,000 people asking for basically all the members of the FIJI (Phi Gamma Delta) fraternity be charged with criminal offenses."

Faber said the attention the case is receiving on social media is overwhelmingly negative. He said he believes this would not lead to an unbias and fair trial.

Faber said a change of venue could help level the playing field.

"As the defense, we're not really in the position to address that," Faber said. "It's unethical for us to counter or push back against that information (in media)."

The state didn't object to changing the venue or bringing in a jury from elsewhere.

"The concern is that the jury pool might be somehow so biased against your client that you can't get a fair trial," Devine said. "If we change the jury pool to a different jurisdiction that analysis changes right?"

"Yes," Faber said.

Devine will rule on the question later. He said some fact-finding will need to take place first.

"Obviously the motion is going to be granted," Devine said. "It's just a question of where we're going to send the case, or procedurally how we're going to do that. My hope would be we could easily bring a jury in from another county and just try the case here."

A status hearing has been scheduled for 10 a.m. March 20.

Article Topic Follows: Crime

Ethan Heinz

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