Caldwell, Hoeck seek venue changes

December 08, 2004|TODD KLEFFMAN

Two high-profile defendants requested Tuesday that their trials be moved out of Boyle County.

Jack Caldwell Sr., who is accused of gunning down his next-door neighbor, and Steven Hoeck, a former children's advocate charged with child sex abuse, both believe their cases have gotten too much media attention for them to receive fair trials in Boyle Circuit Court.

Danville attorney Ephraim Helton, who represents both men, has asked Judge Darren Peckler for changes of venue in both cases during hearings Tuesday. Peckler set the matters for argument on Feb. 7.

Caldwell, 79, is charged with murder in the August shooting death of Jim Trachsel. Police have said a long-running property dispute between the two neighbors on Boone Trail led to the shooting, while Helton maintains that Caldwell fired in self-defense as Trachsel approached him from behind on a riding lawn mower.


Along with "extensive" coverage from Danville and Lexington media, Helton argues that Trachsel's community standing as a popular former educator with the Danville school system makes it difficult for Caldwell to have his case heard by an impartial jury.

"Because Danville is a small community where most persons are acquainted with one another... it will be impossible to select a jury capable of rendering a verdict based solely on the evidence and not based upon the fact that the victim was a well-known and well-liked community figure," Helton said in a court document.

Helton also said potential jurors already know too much about Hoeck's case to hear it fairly. Hoeck, 27, who now lives in Crab Orchard, is the former president of the Boyle/Mercer Task Force on Child Abuse. He was originally charged with two counts of first-degree sexual abuse and one count of first-degree criminal abuse, but pleaded guilty in August to a single misdemeanor charge of third-degree criminal abuse as part of a plea arrangement that kept him from serving time in jail.

Hoeck later withdrew that plea, however, when Peckler did not accept the plea bargain and required Hoeck to spend 60 days in jail.

Helton argues that "an improper and prejudicial inference will be drawn (by jurors) from the fact that the defendant previously entered a guilty plea."

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