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Gallina trial will be on home turf

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ASOTIN — A Superior Court judge charged with rape and six other sexual assault crimes will be in familiar territory when his high-profile trial begins in March.

Judge Scott D. Gallina is not seeking a change of venue and will be sitting at the defendant’s table in the same Asotin County courtroom in which he has presided for five years. Monday was the deadline to file a motion to move the four-week trial to another location, but Gallina has opted to face his accusers in Asotin.

Gallina is the judge assigned to the Hells Canyon Circuit and has presided over superior court cases in Columbia and Garfield counties as well as in Asotin County.

Defense attorney Carl Oreskovich, of Spokane, said his client maintains his innocence and wants to have the case presented to a jury made up of local residents. Jury selection is scheduled to begin March 9.

“We think the citizens of Asotin County are best suited to judge the veracity of these allegations and have chosen to let the venue remain here,” Oreskovich said in an email Tuesday.

Gallina, who is out of custody and on paid administrative leave, is charged with second-degree rape and indecent liberties, both Class A felonies, and five counts of fourth-degree assault with sexual motivation. All of the alleged incidents occurred at the workplace and involved courthouse staff.

The judge was arrested in April following investigations by Asotin County’s insurance carrier and the Washington State Patrol. Multiple women who worked with the judge were interviewed prior to criminal charges being filed by Attorney General Bob Ferguson.

The state’s Supreme Court appointed Spokane County Judge Michael Price to preside over the case, and Seattle attorneys Melanie Tratnik and Sean Waite of the attorney general’s office are handling the prosecution.

After Gallina was handcuffed at the courthouse, he was taken to Walla Walla, where he spent one night behind bars before posting bail. His first court appearance was conducted in Asotin, but all other proceedings have taken place in Price’s Spokane courtroom.

According to the attorney general’s office, defendants have a right under the state constitution to be tried in the jurisdiction where the alleged crimes took place, unless they waive it by asking for a change of venue.

On Tuesday, Asotin County court officials said they will likely have to send out hundreds of summons to seat a jury for this case. They also are working out logistics so Superior Court cases can continue during a lengthy trial.

Gallina, 56, was appointed to the Superior Court bench overseeing the Hells Canyon Circuit in 2014 by Gov. Jay Inslee. Visiting judges and court commissioners have been handling the cases in all three jurisdictions since his arrest.

Gallina’s next court appearance is slated for Jan. 10. Price has said he will hear any pretrial motions at that time.