The start of the trial of Rudy Kurniawan has been riveting and fascinating in several respects. For me used to the restrictions placed in the UK on court reporting, the most striking has been the level of freedom allowed in the US to the press and others to comment publicly on the case: to pronounce Kurniawan guilty and to assess his counsel as a “Mickey Mouse defense” with this brutal verdict on their performance so far:
In the hallway outside the courtroom during a break, people from the gallery were shocked at the poor quality of the defense counsel. One observer called it a “Mickey Mouse defense.” Another said, “there is no defense.” Others complained about a waste of time and money for the court and everyone participating. The counsel was dealt a really tough hand; given what we’ve seen thus far, it’s amazing they didn’t try to arrange a plea before the trial started. It might be possible to raise a reasonable doubt in the mind of the jurors. But this team isn’t doing it.
See more at: (Dr Vino aka Tyler Colman: Report on the trial Day Five http://www.drvino.com/2013/12/13/rudy-kurniawan-trial-day-5/)
The contrast is even more marked between the US and the UK as David Cameron, the UK’s prime minister, was publicly rebuked for praising Nigella Lawson, the TV cook, while she is appearing as a witness in a high profile fraud trial. (http://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2013/dec/12/judge-rebukes-david-cameron-team-nigella)
Interesting that Tyler reports that few wine writers have been attending the trial in a Federal court in New York. If I had been close to the Big Apple I would certainly have made a point of going every day.
Kurniawan now appears to be friendless – left to face the music on his own? He is alleged to have sold $1.3 million worth of counterfeit wine. Did he act entirely alone? You have to wonder why the fake bottles of Domaine Ponsot at the 2008 Acker, Merrall & Condit auction were only withdrawn when Laurent Ponsot, who flown over specially from Burgundy to stop their sale, arrived in the sale room. (Other links to the trial are on Noticed on the net.)
Ponsot has claimed that: “Fraudulent wines are a serious worldwide problem, Ponsot said, adding, ‘I believe 80% of pre-1980 Burgundy sold at auction is fake.’ (See: http://www.decanter.com/news/wine-news/529814/ponsot-worked-closely-with-fbi-for-kurniawan-arrest#EdDghGXUCF2KVGwl.99).
If Ponsot is right then surely Rudy K is just the tip of the iceberg and may well suggest that he wasn’t acting entirely alone.