Richard Rotter sits between his attorneys while entering a not guilty plea on all three charges against him on April 25, 2022, at Snohomish County Court in Everett. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)

Richard Rotter sits between his attorneys while entering a not guilty plea on all three charges against him on April 25, 2022, at Snohomish County Court in Everett. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)

Man accused of killing Everett cop asks to move trial out of county

Richard Rotter’s public defender argues pretrial publicity of Officer Dan Rocha’s death could prejudice a Snohomish County jury.

EVERETT — The man accused of killing Everett police officer Dan Rocha last year is asking a judge to move his upcoming trial out of Snohomish County.

In the motion filed last week in Snohomish County Superior Court, Richard Rotter’s public defender argues the outpouring of support for Rocha, 41, and heavy local news coverage could prejudice jurors here.

“Mr. Rotter cannot receive a fair and impartial jury in this county given the inflammatory pretrial publicity this case has received,” the defendant’s attorney Daniel Snyder wrote in court documents filed Thursday.

One example Snyder noted in his filings was Rotter’s change of heart shortly after being charged with aggravated first-degree murder last April.

In his first appearance in Superior Court, Rotter’s defense attorney said the defendant planned to plead guilty to Rotter’s killing. But days later, he pleaded not guilty to the murder charge, as well as charges of unlawful possession of a firearm and possession of a controlled substance with intent to manufacture or deliver, instead.

Snyder also cited the downtown Everett memorial service attended by thousands shortly after the officer’s March 25 death. At the memorial, Everett Mayor Cassie Franklin said “this tragedy has shaken our community to its core.”

After his death, makeshift memorials to Rocha have cropped up in Everett, the defense attorney noted. Two streets in Stanwood were dedicated in the fallen officer’s memory.

State court rules allow for trials to be moved when a defendant “believes he cannot receive a fair trial in the county where the action is pending.” In 1991, the state Supreme Court ruled “a motion for change of venue should be granted when necessary to effectuate a defendant’s due process guaranty of a fair and impartial trial but a defendant must show a probability of unfairness or prejudice from pretrial publicity.”

The motion doesn’t state where the defense would like the trial moved. Snyder couldn’t be reached for comment Tuesday.

The lead deputy prosecutor on the case, Craig Matheson, declined to comment on the motion. Prosecutors plan to file a response in the next couple weeks.

Prosecutors alleged Rotter, 51, appeared to be moving guns between two cars in the parking lot of a Starbucks near Everett Community College. On patrol at the time, Rocha confronted Rotter, body camera footage shows.

What followed was a calm, eight-minute conversation between the two men before a struggle broke out. It ended with Rotter shooting Rocha several times, according to charges filed in Superior Court.

Rotter’s trial is currently set for mid-March, nearly a year after Rocha’s killing.

A hearing is set for Feb. 17 to discuss the issue in Superior Court. This week, Rotter remained in the Snohomish County Jail on a no bail hold.

Jake Goldstein-Street: 425-339-3439;; Twitter: @GoldsteinStreet.

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