Motion made to move child rape trial from Accomack to Va. Beach

(Delmarva Now) -- A child rape trial dating back decades could be moved from Accomack County to a Virginia Beach courtroom.

Judge Frederick B. Lowe at a hearing Monday said he will make a decision within two weeks on whether to grant a defense motion for a change of venue.

An attorney representing Kahlil Muslimani made the motion in Accomack County Circuit Court for a change of venue in Muslimani's upcoming jury trial, saying the case "has generated a lot of media coverage."

"The goal here is to ensure that we have a fair and impartial jury," said attorney Trevor Robinson.

Robinson said "there was extensive media coverage" of a previous court case involving his client — including "several sites that included video coverage" showing Muslimani, using a wheelchair, being taken to and from Accomack County Jail.

He attached to the motion several pages showing Google search results for Muslimani's name.

Accomack County Commonwealth's Attorney Spencer Morgan argued against moving the trial.

"There is a principle here that this offense occurred in Accomack County and it should be tried in Accomack County," Morgan said.

Morgan argued the news articles Robinson found through Google searches "were largely factual in nature. ... They do not editorialize."

"It hasn't been a media blitz," he said.

A similar motion for a change of venue was made in only two cases within recent memory in Accomack County, Morgan said.

One was for trials involving convicted arsonist Tonya Bundick of Hopeton, which were moved to Virginia Beach.

In another case, the 2016 murder trial of Michael Anthony Press, the trial took place in Accomack County.

Muslimani, 70, has been incarcerated since his arrest in June 2015.

He was convicted in November 2015 by an Accomack County jury on charges of carnal knowledge and sodomy in relation to crimes that began when the victim, a family member, was 12 years old.

Muslimani was sentenced last month to two life terms plus 20 years in that case.

The upcoming trial involves a different victim and the charge also is different.

Stacey A. Spione, 42, in December 2014 asked then Accomack County Commonwealth's Attorney Gary Agar to press charges against Muslimani, who was her stepfather, and against her mother, Ruth Ann Johnson — both of whom she said abused her repeatedly from the age of 4.

Delmarva Media Group does not identify victims of sexual crimes, but Spione wanted her name used when she told her story to the Eastern Shore News in December 2014.

Lowe said his goal in the case "is to get this matter concluded as smoothly ... as possible."

"We've been spinning our wheels here for a long while," he said.

In the past, Muslimani has represented himself in court and has filed dozens of motions and subpoenaed numerous witnesses, including at one point attempting to subpoena Gov. Terry McAuliffe.

In a second motion, Robinson asked that Muslimani be moved from Accomack County Jail to  the Eastern Shore Regional Jail in Eastville to await trial.

His client's stance is that he "is in a constant state of threat" from the Accomack County Sheriff's Office because of the extensive amount of documents Muslimani wants kept within his easy access in the jail, Robinson said.

The sheriff's office several months ago advised Muslimani he had to ship the documents somewhere else, Robinson said, adding, "So my client shipped all his documents to me."

"It's important that Mr. Muslimani have access to his documents" so he can refer to them as he consults with his attorney, Robinson said.

Additionally, Muslimani was in a vehicle crash shortly before he was taken into custody and as result suffers from headaches and pain; he alleges he has not received the proper medical attention in jail, Robinson said.

Lowe did not rule on the motion, but told Robinson to "check with the sheriff," saying the judge has no jurisdiction over the sheriff's office.

It would require the Northampton County sheriff's concurrence for the move to take place, Morgan said.

No date was immediately set for the trial.

Delmarva Now


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