INDEPENDENCE – Citing a close-knit community and emojis, attorneys for reality TV star Chris Soules are asking the court to move his trial for leaving the scene of a fatal crash out of Buchanan County.
Soules, 36, known for his appearances on "The Bachelor" and "Dancing with the Stars," is accused of leaving before law enforcement arrived at an April 2017 crash outside Aurora that claimed the life of farmer Kenneth Mosher, 66.
Trial is slated to begin in November, and last week defense attorney Brandon Brown requested a venue change, saying Soules’ notoriety, the small size of the community and pretrial coverage of the case would make it impossible for Soules to have a fair trial in Buchanan County.
Prosecutors are resisting the request.
Brandon Brown suggested moving the trial to Davenport or Council Bluffs.
“Mr. Soules and his family have lived and farmed in the area for decades. The same is true for Kenneth Mosher and his family. Even before Mr. Soules appeared on the ABC Bachelorette series, the Soules family was well-known in the community. In this small community, it would be challenging to find 12 jurors who did not know the Mosher family or the Soules family,” Brandon Brown wrote in his motion.
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He noted that Buchanan County has about 21,200 residents with 15,583 eligible for jury duty.
“Undoubtedly, many Buchanan County residents tuned in to watch Mr. Soules appear on these nationally-syndicated shows and discussed his comings and goings. Given the size and close-knit nature of the communities in Buchanan County, it would be surprising if there is anyone who doesn’t know Mr. Soules,” Brandon Brown’s motion states.
The defense also cited Facebook comments and emoji reactions to news coverage of developments in the case.
“By clicking the ‘angry’ reaction emoji, local residents have expressed their displeasure with Mr. Soules and his defense ... One individual commented on an Independence Bulletin Journal article, ‘that POS better not get off!!!’” Brandon Brown wrote in the motion.
Assistant Iowa Attorney General Scott Brown, who is prosecuting the case with Buchanan County Attorney Shawn Harden, said the trial should remain in Buchanan County. He said that although the case has received extensive media attention, volume alone isn’t a reason to move the trial.
“The State is satisfied that Buchanan County residents are, like most Iowans, fair minded people capable of abiding by their oath and would make good jurors … Any prejudicial knowledge any potential juror may possess, including any fixed opinions about the case, can be ferreted out by the attorneys during jury selection,” Scott Brown argued in his resistance.