2016 trial date sought in Wesley Chapel theater shooting case

Accused movie theater shooter Curtis Reeves Jr., center, speaks with attorneys Dino Michaels, left, and Richard Escobar during a short break in a pretrial hearing after a pretrial hearing Thursday, Jan. 29, 2015, in Dade City. Reeves is accused of shooting Chad Oulson during an argument in a Pasco County theater. [Pool photo]
Accused movie theater shooter Curtis Reeves Jr., center, speaks with attorneys Dino Michaels, left, and Richard Escobar during a short break in a pretrial hearing after a pretrial hearing Thursday, Jan. 29, 2015, in Dade City. Reeves is accused of shooting Chad Oulson during an argument in a Pasco County theater. [Pool photo]
Published June 30 2015
Updated June 30 2015

DADE CITY — Lawyers in the case of Curtis Reeves Jr., accused of fatally shooting a man inside a Wesley Chapel movie theater, have agreed to seek a trial date in January, citing difficulties gathering evidence and deposing witnesses.

Circuit Judge Pat Siracusa was expected to decide at a Tuesday afternoon hearing whether to give the legal teams more time or force them to stick to the current Aug. 24 trial date. At previous hearings, Siracusa has expressed frustration with how slowly both the state and defense were working.

Reeves' attorney, Richard Escobar, filed a motion June 18 in which he proposed a revised schedule leading up to a January trial, closely coinciding with the two-year anniversary of the incident. In the motion, Escobar wrote that the defense and prosecution met after the last hearing and created the schedule because both were struggling to complete the discovery phase.

Deposing witnesses, Escobar wrote, has been particularly challenging due to scheduling conflicts with the witnesses and prosecutors. The defense team still has 30 more witnesses to interview, he said.

"There is a serious and real risk that the defendant will be prejudiced if the trial is not continued," Escobar said. "The presently scheduled trial date of Aug. 24, 2015, does not give the defense adequate time to sufficiently and effectively prepare."

Escobar also wrote that he spoke with the attorney representing Nicole Oulson, the widow of Chad Oulson, 43, the man Reeves is accused of killing. Oulson, through her attorney, said she would have preferred an earlier trial date but did not object to the proposed January date.

The Jan. 13, 2014, incident between Reeves, a former Tampa police captain, and Oulson erupted during previews of a screening of the movie Lone Survivor at the Cobb Grove 16 theaters in Wesley Chapel. Witnesses told authorities Reeves became upset when Oulson used his phone in the theater, though details of the original narrative are in dispute.

Reeves, 72, of Hernando County spent six months in jail before posting $150,000 bail. He is charged with second-degree murder and aggravated battery.

Contact Josh Solomon at (813) 226-3446 or jsolomon@tampabay.com. Follow @josh_solomon15 on Twitter.

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