Bus Crash Trial Stays in St. Croix County

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A judge made the ruling in Eau Claire County Court.

Judge William Gabler says the key is to make sure the defendant, 23-year-old Michael Kozlowski, gets a fair trial.

Gabler says while he's sympathetic to concerns moving the trial an hour away would be unfair to victims the cost of alternate options would be "staggering."

Gabler rejected District Attorney Rich White's idea of either bussing jurors to Eau Claire or sequestering them in a hotel.

He also said while the St. Croix County courthouse is smaller than Eau Claire's, no courtroom is big enough to handle the sheer number of victims.

As for the role of media coverage, Gabler said there was only a slight risk jurors would be biased by Twin Cities news. He said, like other cases, he'd instruct them not to read or watch coverage.

After today's ruling, White says there's little else he can do.

"We put together our best arguments as to why things should be done in a certain fashion," says White. "If the judge disagrees he disagrees."

Kozlowski is charged with five counts of homicide by negligent operation of a vehicle, one count for each of the people who died in the October 2005 crash.

The National Transportation Safety Board says Kozlowski likely fell asleep at the wheel causing the crash.

As for his part, Defense Attorney Earl Gray told the judge there was no good reason to move the trial back to Eau Claire and that D.A. White just wanted to be closer to home.

Kozlowksi's trial is scheduled to begin, in Hudson, April 16.