Judge denies change of venue in MPD search strip trial

CREATED Mar 21, 2013

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MILWAUKEE - Four Milwaukee Police Officers accused of illegal strip searches entered a courtroom on Thursday, asking for a change of venue for their upcoming trial.

A judge denied their request to have trials heard outside Milwaukee County due to the high-profile nature of the case.

Accused ringleader Michael Vagnini faces illegal strip search, misconduct and sexual assault charges.

Officers Jacob Knight, Jeffrey Dollhopf and Brian Kozelek also face charges.

Their attorney, Michael Fitzgerald, argued the case that they can't possibly have a fair trial due to local media coverage.

He also cited public statements from high-ranking city officials such as Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett and Police Chief Ed Flynn.

"Mayor Barrett had a press conference...said he was outraged by the charges, called this an egregious violation of the public trust.  The Journal Sentinel commended the chief and mayor for these comments," said Fitzgerald.

"In summary, what you have is prominent public officials condemning the defendants.

Judge Jeffrey Wagner disagreed, rejecting the change of venue request.

"The fact that there's pre-trial publicity doesn't establish prejudice," said Wagner.

Now, the four officers will move forward with their trials, scheduled for Milwaukee.

All four are on paid suspension.

Vagnini's trial has been scheduled for April, while the other three officers were to have their trial in June.