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Prosecutors fight venue change for suspected Oct. 1 ammo seller

Updated July 26, 2019 - 1:06 pm

Federal prosecutors in Las Vegas say a request to transfer a jury trial to Northern Nevada for the man accused of selling illegal ammunition to the Route 91 Harvest festival gunman may be a move to draw “pro-gun” jurors who “would be more favorable to him,” according to a court filing.

The Arizona man, Douglas Haig, faces one count of manufacturing ammunition without a license. He is accused of selling reloaded rounds — including armor-piercing and tracer bullets — to the Las Vegas gunman ahead of the Oct. 1, 2017, attack, which left 58 dead and hundreds more injured.

“Haig’s request is possibly premised upon a belief that he would draw a more favorable pool of prospective jurors if the venire was composed of a great number of individuals drawn from rural and outlying areas,” the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Las Vegas said in a court filing Thursday. “Some take the view (which is not necessarily correct or supportable) that rural and outlying areas have a more pro-gun and libertarian way of belief. Haig might share such a view and believe that jurors from rural and outlying communities would be more favorable to him.”

Haig’s motion to have his case heard by a jury in Reno instead of in Las Vegas was filed earlier this month. It argued that a trial in Las Vegas would almost ensure a biased jury due, in part, to media attention surrounding the Strip massacre. The request is possible because Nevada encompasses a single federal judicial district.

Should the request be denied, Haig asked that the court draw jurors from the entire state, not just the Las Vegas area.

In its response, prosecutors noted that the Route 91 attack “was an event of national significance” and therefore “it is a fallacy to believe that some portion of the country was somehow shielded from the events more than another.”

“The argument becomes even weaker when applied to communities within the state,” it said, pointing out that a Reno man also was killed in the shooting. “Thus, there is no logical reason to believe that Haig’s plan to dilute the Southern Division jury pool would have any appreciable effect on the presence of potentially prejudiced jurors.”

Austin Cooper Meyer, 24, was engaged, enrolled in college in Reno and had dreams of opening his own business when a gunshot wound to his back killed him at the country music festival.

Prior to Haig’s request for a Reno trial, Haig had also asked that his case be transferred to the District of Arizona, where he lives in Phoenix, but that motion was denied.

As it stands, Haig’s trial is set to begin in December in Las Vegas.

Contact Rio Lacanlale at rlacanlale@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0381. Follow @riolacanlale on Twitter.

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