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Residents react to Donald Trump trial set in Fort Pierce

'Gobsmacked,' Tiona Luster says
Posted at 10:13 PM, Jun 20, 2023

FORT PIERCE, Fla. — With former President Donald Trump's trial set to take place in Fort Pierce, residents and business owners in the city have different reactions.

Judge Aileen Cannon set Trump's preliminary hearing date for Aug. 14 at the Alto Lee Adams, Sr. U.S. Courthouse in Fort Pierce.

The big question for many Fort Pierce residents: why Fort Pierce?

"Yeah, exactly," Tiona Luster said. "Gobsmacked."

“Mindblown," Aaron McCloud said. "I would have thought Miami, Palm Beach where he’s from at least."

“They put him here in Hicksville? Hmm, baffling," another resident told WPTV.

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Palm Beach County State Attorney Dave Aronberg said the reason why goes back to Trump's presiding judge.

"Judge Cannon is the only judge based to the Fort Pierce satellite courthouse, so she understandably wants this case to be closer to her," Aronberg said.

Aronberg added that the benefit is this federal courthouse is large enough to accommodate a case as high profile as Trump's.

His concern is more the area surrounding the courthouse.

"Fort Pierce is about 58 miles north of West Palm. There are not a lot of hotels in that area so logistically for reporters and onlookers it will be tougher," Aronberg said.

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It's not good news for many residents, like Luster.

"Really don't like it. It’s just going to bring so much traffic and aggravation," Luster said. "We have a hard time parking here as it is, so it’s going to be craziness."

Others, including Staci Dunn, owner of The Cake Lady, welcomed the traffic, hoping it could bring in more business for her bakery.

"Yeah, I think this is amazing, I just had no idea," Dunn said. "I'm very excited, "I'm going to call my husband now and tell him!”

Dunn, a Trump supporter herself, said with her bakery in walking distance of the courthouse, she hopes the former President might have a sweet tooth.

“Maybe he likes sweets, maybe he’ll come in here. I'll have to stand out there with a big sign, ‘cake lady open!' " Dunn said. "We’ll do a cake carved with his face or something.”

Others, like McCloud, are just excited to put Fort Pierce on the map.

“That’s big, that’s big for sure, especially in fort pierce," McCloud said. "That's history in the making."

Aronberg said Trump's trial will likely take place in the largest courtroom at the federal courthouse with limited seating for members of the public to watch. He said chances of getting a seat might be slim; it will likely be up to some sort of lottery system.

Aronberg said it's likely that's the only way people will be able to see the trial. Like the arraignment in Miami, he said cameras probably won't be allowed in the courtroom during the trial.

"There might not even be phones like at the arraignment and I think that is a lost opportunity because you want the public to know what's going on, you want the criminal justice system to be transparent, and this is the opposite of that and I think that's something the federal government needs to re-asses," Aronberg said.

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St Lucie County Sheriff Ken Mascara said security for the building will be handled by the U.S. Marshals Services.

The perimeter around the building falls in the jurisdiction of Fort Pierce police.

Fort Pierce Police Chief Diane Hobley-Burney released this statement to WPTV, reading in full:

"We will be working with our law enforcement and federal partners to assure the safety of our citizens and visitors during the trial."

Mascara said his agency has not yet been asked to assist, but if they are, they're ready to help.

"It might be that they just want our bomb sniffing dogs to sniff around the courthouse, or it could be that they want 20 to 30 deputies a day to assist with perimeter control. If anyone of those partners needs our assistance, we’ll be willing to help in any way," Mascara said.

Although the preliminary court date is set for Aug. 14, Aronberg said it will most certainly be delayed. He doesn't expect the trial to actually start until after the 2024 election.