Musk says he can’t get a fair trial in California, wants Texas

WASHINGTON — WASHINGTON (AP) — Elon Musk has urged a federal judge to move the trial of a shareholder lawsuit out of San Francisco because he says negative local media coverage has biased potential jurors against him.

Instead, in a document filed late Friday — less than two weeks before the trial is set to begin Jan. 17 — Musk’s lawyers argued the trial should be moved to federal court in the Western District of Texas. That area includes the state capital of Austin, where Musk is moving his Tesla electric car company in late 2021.

If the move isn’t possible, Musk’s lawyers want the trial delayed pending negative publicity about Musk’s purchase of Twitter has died.

“Over the past several months, the local media has saturated this area with biased and negative stories about Mr. Musk,” attorney Alex Spiro wrote in a court filing. These elements are personally blaming Musk for the recent layoffs at Twitter, Spiro wrote, and charge that the layoffs may have even broken the law.

The shareholders’ lawsuit stems from tweets by Musk in August 2018, when he said he had enough funding to take Tesla private at a price of $420 a share, an announcement that caused severe volatility in Tesla’s stock price.

Attorneys for the shareholders did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

In a victory for shareholders last spring, Judge Edward Chen ruled that Musk’s tweets were false and reckless.

The statement from his lawyers also noted that Twitter has laid off about 1,000 residents in the San Francisco area since it bought the company in late October.

“A significant number of jurors … are likely to have a personal and material bias against Mr. Musk as a result of recent layoffs at one of his companies, as individual prospective jurors — or their friends and relatives — may have been personally affected,” the filing said.

Musk has also been criticized by San Francisco’s mayor and other local officials over the job cuts, the filing said.

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