Army Pvt. Ethan Melzer, a soldier charged with conspiring with neo-Nazis to attack his own unit, is asking for his case to be dismissed, citing that the grand jury did not include enough Black and Hispanic members, Military.com reported.
The grand jury that indicted Melzer was from the northern part of the Southern District of New York. But the case will be tried in the district’s south, where a larger Black and Hispanic population is present.
“Allowing a defendant to be indicted in one division and tried in another opens the door to prosecutorial gamesmanship where the government can forum shop for the racial, gender and economic demographics of their choice,” Melzer’s lawyers wrote.
In an opposing motion from December 2020, prosecutors cited COVID-19 restrictions as to why Melzer’s indictments came from one of few non-suspended federal grand juries in the district. They also argued that minority underrepresentation in jury selection was due to outside factors and that there was no law mandating a defendant likely to be tried in a courthouse be indicted by a grand jury from the same one.
The defense has fired back that “needlessly” seeking the indictment in White Plains was indeed systematic exclusion.
No decision has been made by the presiding judge yet.
Last spring, Melzer, 22 – amid serving with the 173rd Airborne Brigade in Italy – was charged with eight counts, including conspiring to kill U.S. nationals, attempting to murder U.S. service members and supporting terrorists. He pleaded not guilty.
According to prosecutors, Melzer sent information about his unit to extremist groups Order of the Nine Angles and neo-Nazi “RapeWaffen Division.” Furthermore, he allegedly planned to ambush his unit in Turkey.