State

Arguments end in Columbus Allen Jr. II change of venue motion

Attorneys on Friday wrapped up arguments over whether a judge should move a trial involving the killing of a highway patrolman out of Modesto.

The change of venue motion was brought by attorneys for Columbus Allen Jr. II of Stockton, who is charged with first-degree murder in the 2006 shooting death of California Highway Patrol officer Earl Scott near Salida.

Defense attorney John R. Grele said emotions about Scott, seen as a "fallen hero," run too high in Modesto to try Allen here. He pointed to survey results that showed about 85 percent of the respondents said they knew about the case and 60 percent assessed Allen as "probably guilty."

"Mr. Allen will never get a fair trial," Grele said.

Although Stanislaus County Chief Deputy District Attorney Alan Cassidy admitted there was "substantial" publicity about the crime, he said the "senseless" nature of the killing would not change with a new venue.

"A cop killing is a cop killing," Cassidy said. "There's no community that's going to endorse the killing of a police officer."

To move the trial, Judge Hurl Johnson must believe Allen could not get a fair trial in Modesto because of widespread publicity that is deemed inaccurate or inflammatory. He has not given a date for issuing his ruling.

Lawyers will be in court Tuesday to decide whether to move back the trial date of Sept. 1.

Allen, 33, of Stockton is charged with killing Scott at about 4:40 a.m. Feb. 17, 2006. The slain officer was found at the edge of northbound Highway 99, just south of Hammett Road near Salida, holding registration papers for a Nissan Maxima registered to Allen's wife, Bertera.

Bee staff writer Merrill Balassone can be reached at mbalassone@modbee.com or 578-2337.

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