Publicity concerns attorney

A lawyer for Mike Danton wants a change of venue, a request rarely granted in federal trials.
Tuesday, June 29, 2004 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 10:48 p.m. CDT, Friday, July 18, 2008

ST. LOUIS — An attorney for St. Louis Blues player Mike Danton argued for a change of venue in his client’s murder-for-hire case Monday, saying it “has been subject to an extraordinary amount of pretrial publicity.”

Attorney Robert Haar said it’s unusual for such requests to be granted in federal trials such as this one, which was scheduled Monday for September.

“It’s relatively rare,” he said. “But this is a relatively rare case.”

After the hearing in federal court in East St. Louis, Ill., Haar said he had no expectations, but that given all the publicity surrounding the case, it was incumbent upon him to try.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Stephen Clark argued that regardless of the publicity, the case could be tried fairly in the U.S. Southern District of Illinois.

If the motion for the venue change is rejected, Haar had asked in motions filed last month that he be allowed to quiz would-be jurors in person and by questionnaire to “maximize the possibility of seating an impartial jury.”

U.S. District Judge William Stiehl said Monday he would rule on the matter this week.

Danton, 23, is accused of persuading co-defendant Katie Wolfmeyer to hire a hit man to kill his agent David Frost. A man saying he was the would-be hit man went to authorities, and Danton was arrested April 16 in San Jose, Calif., a day after the Blues were eliminated from the playoffs.

Wolfmeyer, 19, a college student from suburban St. Louis, also faces murder-for-hire charges. She is free on $100,000 bond, pending trial. Danton is being held in the St. Clair County, Ill., jail.

Danton and Wolfmeyer have pleaded not guilty.

The cases were to be tried in July. On Monday, Stiehl rescheduled jury selection for Sept. 1-2. Trial is set for Sept. 7.

Wolfmeyer’s attorneys have not asked for a change of venue. “We feel comfortable in this venue,” St. Louis attorney Art Margulis said. “She’s a 19-year-old girl. It’s a good place as any.”

Wolfmeyer’s attorneys have requested that prosecutors be barred from using any of her statements, recorded or in writing, with investigators.

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