A Newhall municipal judge Monday agreed to a request by Space Ordnance Systems and three of its executives for a change of venue in their trial on charges of violating laws governing hazardous waste.
Judge Adrian W. Davis ordered the trial moved to Los Angeles Municipal Court, saying he agreed with defense lawyers that there is "a reasonable likelihood" that a trial in Newhall would not be fair because of massive publicity about the company and the criminal case.
The defense and aerospace company and executives Joseph Cabaret, James Smith and Michael Murphy are each accused of 87 misdemeanor violations of state and county laws governing storage, transportation and disposal of hazardous waste.
Raids on Plants
The charges, filed in August, 1984, stemmed from raids on the company's Mint Canyon and Sand Canyon plants by law-enforcement and environmental officials. Officials said they found evidence that SOS had illegally stored and transported chemical and explosive wastes without required permits and had disposed of chemically tainted waste water by spraying it through sprinklers and pouring it on the ground.
For the Record
Los Angeles Times Friday December 20, 1985 Valley Edition Metro Part 2 Page 9 Column 5 Zones Desk 1 inches; 30 words Type of Material: Correction
In an article Tuesday on a hearing in Newhall Municipal Court on a motion to change the location of the trial of Space Ordnance Systems and three of its officials, the wrong last name was given for Judge Adrian W. Adams.
The company and three officials have pleaded not guilty to the charges.
Defense lawyers, in arguing to move the trial, said that, during the last 1 1/2 years, at least 186 articles about SOS waste disposal problems had appeared in newspapers circulating in the Santa Clarita Valley. A public attitude opinion survey they commissioned found that 38% of the people interviewed were aware of the case and, of those, 47% had concluded that the charges were valid, whereas only 5% thought the defendants were innocent.
Prosecutors, in opposing the motion, said the opinion survey actually showed that it would be easy to select a panel of jurors who had no knowledge of the case.
Not Decided on Appeal
Deputy district attorneys John Bernardi and Clifford Klein said Monday that they had not decided whether to appeal the ruling.
No date has been set for the trial. Davis scheduled a Jan. 27 hearing in Newhall for more pretrial motions. One unresolved issue is whether the defendants will be tried separately or together.
The 87 counts filed against the company and three men carry maximum fines of about $3.6 million. Most of the 87 counts against the three officials are punishable by up to a year in jail; a few counts carry a maximum term of six months.
Cabaret, president of SOS when the March, 1984, raids occurred and a vice president of its corporate parent, TransTechnology Corp. of Sherman Oaks, remains a TransTechnology vice president but is no longer president of SOS, a TransTechnology official said.
Smith, director of administration for SOS, and Murphy, general manager of the company's Mint Canyon plant, are on leaves of absence, according to Burl Alison, TransTechnology vice president. She said their departures were a "mutual thing" between SOS and the men and that their legal expenses will continue to be paid by the company.