No trial move for top organizer of 'Unite the Right' rally

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CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (WCAV) — The perjury trial for Unite the Right organizer Jason Kessler is moving forward in Albemarle County, after a judge denied a defense motion to change venues on Tuesday.

Kessler is accused of lying under oath about an assault last year.

During the motions hearing in Albemarle Circuit Court, Kessler's attorney, Mike Hallahan, claimed the Charlottesville Commonwealth's Attorney's Office has publicly stated distaste for Kessler, and that local media coverage has been slanted against Kessler to a degree that would make seating a jury impossible.

He said a jury pool would likely contain "sleeper activists" who hate Kessler, but who would not admit it under questioning.

Albemarle County Commonwealth's Attorney Robert Tracci said the possibility of jurors not answering questions honestly exists in every case and urged the court to deny the motion.

Judge Cheryl Higgins sided with the Commonwealth after reading through local media coverage. She said the coverage was neither inaccurate nor inflammatory and said prospective jurors would be able to differentiate between the Charlottesville and Albemarle Commonwealth's Attorneys offices, which are unconnected.

Higgins took the motion into consideration, which means she could grant the motion later if seating a jury proves impossible. She agreed to allow Hallahan to distribute a printed survey to prospective jurors in an effort to streamline jury selection ahead of the trial date.

Outside court, Kessler accused gathered media of bias.

"You people only bring your cameras around when you have something negative to do about me," he said.

Hallahan said the jury questionnaire will be critical.

"We'll have to ask jurors very specific questions about their potential biases and try to find 20 fair people to seat," he said.

Kessler's perjury trial is set for March 20.