Trial date set 6 years after fatal movie theater shooting

DADE CITY, Fla. (AP) — A trial date has been set for a man accused of fatally shooting another man during an argument over cellphone use during previews at a Florida movie theater.

Curtis Reeves Jr., 77, will face a second-degree murder charge in the trial slated to begin Oct. 5 in Pasco County. Prosecutors and defense attorneys agreed the trial would likely last three weeks.

Reeves is accused of shooting Chad Oulson after an argument escalated at the Cobb Grove 16 movie theater in 2014.

Reeves' attorney, Richard Escobar, sought to delay the trial until January 2021 during a hearing Wednesday, the Tampa Bay Times reported.

“Sir, I think you might want to reconsider that," said Pinellas-Pasco Circuit Judge Kemba Lewis. “This court is not inclined to go into 2021. Really and truly it's not."

Reeves had sought protection from prosecution under Florida's “stand your ground" law, but after a two-week hearing in 2017, a judge ruled he was not eligible for immunity. Shortly thereafter, the state changed the law, switching the burden of proof from the defense to the prosecution. Reeves' attorneys argued the change warranted a redo of the hearing. So the case was stagnant as the judge waited for guidance from the Florida Supreme Court about whether a new hearing was required.

In December, the court ruled that cases that had already conducted hearings did not need to have do-overs.

Escobar sought to keep the case off the trial calendar, suggesting they reconvene in six weeks after he'd had a chance to find out when witnesses might be available. He said there are 127 witnesses.

He also listed a number of trials he has scheduled through the end of the year.

“I think this case should take precedent,” said Assistant State Attorney Glenn Martin, who had asked the trial be set for the spring. “We’re all busy.”

They agreed on the October trial date and a status hearing was set for March.

After the hearing, TJ Grimaldi, the attorney for Oulson’s widow, Nicole Oulson, told the Times it was clear Escobar was trying to delay.

Reeves, a retired Tampa police captain, was 71 when the shooting took place. He will be 78 if the trial starts as scheduled later this year.

“I think it’s almost reprehensible that this thing is still going on six years later," Grimaldi said. "'I think it’s an absolute joke to continue to say that they need more time to do things.”