A federal judge has denied a Maine man’s attempt to move his trial from Bangor to Portland after the man claimed he wouldn’t have a fair trial in Bangor due to “extensive and sensational” media coverage.
U.S. District Court Judge Lance E. Walker denied the motion, saying that area media coverage may have been unflattering but not sensational, in a federal court ruling Wednesday.
Nathan Reardon is charged with defrauding the Paycheck Protection Program after he allegedly obtained a $60,000 loan from the pandemic business relief program by lying about his businesses. He has pleaded not guilty to the charge.
Reardon’s attorney, Hunter Tzovarras, filed the motion to have the trial moved on June 13. Reardon’s trial is set to begin in July. In his initial filing, Tzovarras argued that widespread media coverage of Reardon and his past alleged wrongdoings would prevent Reardon from having a “fair trial” in Bangor.
Nathan Reardon claims that “extensive and sensational” media coverage in the Bangor area has hurt his chance of receiving a fair trial there.
In Reardon’s initial filing, Tzovarras said that the Bangor and Portland media markets are separate and different, giving his client more of a fighting chance to gather an impartial jury pool.
Walker rejected that argument in his ruling Wednesday however.
“Despite the ‘Two Maines’ theory, the Bangor and Portland media markets, though small and separated by about one hundred miles, are not hermetically sealed thanks to the modern convenience of the internet,” Walker said. “Residents of Bowdoinham are as likely to know what’s happening in Bradford as are residents of LaGrange to keep tabs on the happenings in Lisbon Falls.”
There has been coverage of Reardon since the start of his case. Of particular concern, however, was that “publicity peaked” in April 2022 and that coverage is expected to “only intensify once the trial draws closer and starts,” according to Reardon’s motion.
Reardon, who had been free on bail since April 2021, was arrested in April of this year for violating his bail and has been held in the Hancock County Jail ever since. U.S. Magistrate Judge John C. Nivison found Reardon violated his conditions of release when he sought federal rental assistance that his bail conditions barred him from seeking without a probation officer’s approval.
The extent of Nathan Reardon’s bids for further COVID-19 assistance was one revelation from court documents that became public Wednesday as the 44-year-old was arrested on a bail violation.
In April, the Bangor Daily News published a series of articles on Reardon and a struggle with Bangor city officials that led the city to condemn a portion of the Bangor Mall.
The coverage also focused on Reardon’s business practices and the nature of his sprawling business empire that includes dozens of companies, a trail of debt to nearly 100 former employees, and $100,000 in fines for labor violations in addition to the federal fraud case for alleged misuse of pandemic Paycheck Protection Program money.
The coverage highlighted Reardon’s track record as a property manager renting out apartments to tenants as well. At one apartment in Howland that the tenants rented using federal assistance, for example, there was no toilet when the tenants moved in, exposed wires hung from the ceiling, and Reardon was attempting to kick the tenants out for nonpayment of rent — which isn’t allowed under rental assistance program rules for the months the assistance is covering.
Reardon has also sued two Maine media outlets — News Center Maine late last year and the BDN in April, alleging defamation.
“I’m not worried about this lawsuit,” Star Latti said Thursday. “It’s a game to play with people.”
A day after Tzovarras filed the motion to move the trial, he filed an appeal to the 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Boston to have Reardon’s bail hearing reopened. He argued that Reardon’s diagnosis of obesity and Type 2 diabetes are conditions that have been shown to make people more susceptible to contracting COVID-19, according to the filing.
The medical records provided in the filing do not indicate if Reardon is vaccinated against COVID-19. Additionally, the Hancock County Jail has not experienced high rates of COVID-19 infections, jail administrator Tim Richardson said last week.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Andrew Lizotte filed motions opposing reopening Reardon’s bail hearing as well as moving the trial to Portland.
Reardon’s trial is set to begin jury selection July 5 with arguments starting the following week.