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PROVO, Utah (AP) -- The attorney for a former Brigham Young University finance officer accused of stealing from the church-owned school has asked the trial be moved to a county less heavily populated by Mormons.
Davis is charged with theft and racketeering. Prosecutors allege he funneled $306,000 to a shell corporation between 1995 and 2001.
In a motion filed Monday in 4th District Court, the attorney for John S. Davis said members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints would tend to favor the private university because a portion of their tithes to the church goes to BYU.
Defense attorney, Fred Keller, asked that the trial be moved from Utah County to Summit County or Salt Lake County.
Deputy Utah County Attorney David Wayment called the arguments "constitutionally and legally repugnant."
"I'm a little taken aback," that a motion would be made to move a trial to avoid a certain religious population, he said.
Keller said the argument isn't about religious discrimination but about securing a fair trial for Davis.
Wayment said the trial could be held in Juab or Wasatch counties, which also are in the 4th Judicial District.
Keller said Juab and Wasatch counties have Mormon populations of 84 percent or higher. Utah County is believed to be about 90 percent Mormon.
Keller suggested Summit County, which has an estimated Mormon population of 37 percent.
"The county which is most likely to produce the least amount of biased jurors is the county with the fewest members of the LDS Church. Because of tithing, LDS members are more likely to be biased than nonmembers," Keller said in the motion.
Judge Steven Hansen registered concerns that the defense was trying to avoid an entire religious body instead of just trying to exclude residents who work at or attended BYU.
Keller said he may change his request if he receives additional information about county residents -- and their affiliations to BYU. University officials promised to give him records of BYU staff, faculty and alumni in surrounding counties, sorted by ZIP codes, he said.
Hansen has set a hearing on the motion for a change of venue for Sept. 10.
(Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)