By JENNIFER SINCO KELLEHER
HONOLULU — A federal judge said she’s inclined to deny a motion by a North Carolina man to move his trial over a failed University of Hawaii concert that was supposed to feature Stevie Wonder.
Marc Hubbard’s attorneys filed a motion last month to move the trial to North Carolina or Florida. The motion argues that Hubbard, a club and concert promoter from Waxhaw, N.C., can’t get a fair trial in Hawaii because of negative publicity over what’s been dubbed the “Wonder Blunder.”
Authorities say Hubbard claimed he had connections to secure Wonder for a fundraiser for the university’s athletic department. The school paid a $200,000 deposit, began selling tickets and later learned neither Wonder nor his representatives authorized a show.
Thousands of tickets had to be refunded, leading to embarrassment for the school and various investigations.
It’s not about the amount of publicity, but rather whether any of it is demonizing of Hubbard, to require moving the trial, Judge Leslie Kobayashi said at a hearing Monday in Honolulu. She agreed there has been a considerable amount of publicity over the incident, which “has its own nickname. It’s infamous.” But she said, “the publicity has to be of a certain tenor or type” that singled out Hubbard.
“In their pleadings, the defendant makes reference to various forms of publicity concerning the Stevie Wonder concert that was the basis for the crime charged in the indictment,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Leslie Osborne Jr. wrote in opposition to the motion. “There is no indication as to what those articles say about the defendant, Marc Hubbard.”
The motion also argues it would be more convenient to hold the trial out of Hawaii because many witnesses would have a long way to travel. Kobayashi noted technology could help address that.
Hubbard, on home detention as a condition of his release on $200,000 bond, listened to the hearing via telephone.
Kobayashi set oral arguments on the motion for Dec. 2.