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Milton trial date reset for July as Nikola founder drops venue appeal

Latest stock sale likely drops Milton to No. 2 shareholder in electric truck manufacturer

Indicted Nikola Corp. founder Trevor Milton dropped his appeal of a denied change of venue motion leaving his criminal trial in New York. (Photo: Nikola)

Editor’s Note: Deletes extraneous words in penultimate graf

Nikola Corp. founder Trevor Milton, awaiting trial on criminal fraud charges, dropped an appeal to move the proceeding from New York to Phoenix, clearing a reset of the court date to July from next month.

Milton’s attorneys originally requested the trial be moved to April 25 from a scheduled date of April 4, but federal prosecutors objected because the courtroom of U.S. District Judge Edgardo Ramos in Manhattan is under COVID protocols that prohibit close seating.

A tentative date of July 18 was set earlier this week.

Milton, who is accused of lying about business prospects and progress of the Phoenix-based electric truck maker, dropped his appeal of being denied a change of venue. It may still come up on appeal if Milton is convicted on any of three counts of fraud contained in a July 29, 2021 indictment. He is free on a $100 million bond.

Nikola as a company agreed to pay a $125 million fine to the SEC to settle a complaint based on Milton’s claims. It has said it will try to get Milton to reimburse the fine.

Separately, Milton purchased options and sold 45,000 shares of his stake in Nikola (NASDAQ: NKLA) the company last Friday, according to a Securities and Exchange Commission filing posted Friday. The sale was worth about $291,600 before taxes on the gains of the difference between his option exercise price of $1.06 and the closing price of $7.52 on the sale date.

Milton has shed tens of millions of his once dominant share in the company. Mark Russell, who succeeded Milton as CEO in June 2020 when the company went public via SPAC, now holds about the same roughly 11.7% of Nikola equity.

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Alan Adler

Alan Adler is an award-winning journalist who worked for The Associated Press and the Detroit Free Press. He also spent two decades in domestic and international media relations and executive communications with General Motors.