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Judge denies bid to change venue in Sunny White case

by Jeff Smith, For the Leader
| July 4, 2024 12:00 AM

Judge Molly Owen of the 20th Judicial District denied a motion for change of venue in the case of a Butte woman charged with running over and killing an Arlee woman.

Sunny White, 29, is facing charges stemming from the vehicle vs. pedestrian incident involving Mika Westwolf as she walked along U.S. Highway 93 in the Arlee area on March 31, 2023.

The public defender for White, Meghan Benson of Missoula, argued that her client “is entitled to a change of venue because reasonable grounds exist to believe that she would not receive a fair and impartial trial in Lake County.” Benson says the publicity surrounding White’s case and its inflammatory nature will taint the jury pool.

She also argued, in part, that the “Mika Matters” movement remains a prominent feature in several Facebook posts, twitter posts and news articles written about the case and that the “nature of publicity has been primarily against Ms. White and perceptions about her.”

In denying the motion, Judge Owen concluded, “The Court finds the Lake County populace does not have an irrepressibly hostile attitude towards the Defendant, or lynch mob mentality, which would prevent a fair trial for the Defendant. The Court expects to find an unbiased jury pool in the Lake County populace for this trial.”

White is charged with vehicular homicide while under the influence, accidents involving another person or deceased person, two counts of criminal child endangerment and criminal possession of dangerous drugs, all felonies. The five charges carry a combined maximum of 65 years in prison.

The trial is set for Sept. 30.