Elon Musk has asked a judge to move an upcoming trial for a shareholder lawsuit out of San Francisco, citing concerns that the jury may have a bias against him, as reported earlier by CNBC. In a Friday filing, Musk requests that the judge relocate the trial to West Texas due to the “local negativity” in the Bay Area surrounding Elon Musk and his businesses, preventing a fair trial.
The shareholder class action lawsuit, which accuses Musk of manipulating Tesla’s stock, stems from the billionaire’s now-infamous 2018 tweet that claimed he had the “funding secured” to take Tesla private. Tesla’s stock reached extreme highs and lows in the weeks following the tweet, and resulted in a $40 million fine from the Securities and Exchange Commission. According to CNBC, the upcoming trial is supposed to determine whether Musk’s 2018 tweet affected Tesla’s stock price, as well as if Tesla and Musk should be held accountable for the alleged damages.
“The recent local media coverage has created an environment that encourages the District’s jury pool to hold negative biases against Mr. Musk’s use of Twitter,” the filing reads. “Potential jurors that hold negative opinions about Mr. Musk’s use and relationship with Twitter generally as a result of this coverage will be unable to separate this baseline bias from the facts in this case and thus be unable to impartially evaluate Musk’s conduct.”
The filing claims Musk’s mass layoffs at Twitter “have already created substantial bias” in local jurors.
In addition to blaming “inflammatory” local media coverage, the filling adds that Musk’s chaotic takeover of Twitter, which included mass layoffs at the company’s San Francisco headquarters and other locations “already created substantial bias” in those who have (or know someone who has) been impacted by the job cuts.
It also claims that Musk and his San Francisco offices are often subject to protests that are “encouraged” by local politicians, further cementing this “prejudice” and resulting in an unfair trial. If the judge decides not to move the trial to Texas, where Tesla’s based, Musk and his lawyers ask that the trial get delayed to let the “negative sentiments” surrounding Musk dissipate.
Federal Judge Edward Chen, who’s in charge of this case, ruled last year that Musk knowingly made false statements about taking Tesla private on Twitter. While Musk continues to reaffirm that he struck a deal with investors from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund (PIF), recently disclosed text messages show Musk’s outrage over the PIF’s lack of support. Musk has subpoenaed Yasir al-Rumayyan, the head of the PIF, for this trial, which was originally set to take place on January 17th. The hearing for the trial’s relocation will happen on January 13th.