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Kurniawan may switch lawyer before trial

Alleged wine counterfeiter Rudy Kurniawan may change his lawyer less than two months before his trial is due to start in September.

According to Wine Spectator, judge Richard Berman believes the Indonesian-born wine collector will ask to change his lawyer at a meeting next week.

“There may very well be a substitute counsel at that conference. That’s my expectation,” he told WS. 

The magazine reports that tension between Kurniawan and Los Angeles–based defense attorney Proctor have been “brewing for at least a month”.

It is unknown at this stage who will replace Proctor, who has represented Kurniawan since his arrest by FBI agents at his home on March 9, 2012.

Fine wine labels, including Lafite and Pétrus, found at Kurniawan’s house during the FBI search

“What I can say in open court is that it’s unfortunate that facts and circumstances haven’t changed,” Proctor told WS, though would not divulge whether the issues he was experiencing with Kurniawan were strategic or financial. 

In court this Monday, judge Berman summoned Criminal Justice lawyer Dawn Cardi to potentially represent Kurniawan.

Under the Criminal Justice Act of 1964, federal courts can appoint a volunteer lawyer to represent a defendant who cannot afford his or he own private counsel.

In order to be represented by the Criminal Justice lawyer, Kurniawan would have had to swear under penalty of perjury that he doesn’t have the resources to maintain his own counsel. 

He refused the offer. Taking on a new defense lawyer could impede upon Kurniawan’s trial date, set to begin on 9 September.

Wine bottles found soaking in the sink at Kurniawan’s home

The prosecution is keen to keep that date as it hopes to bring estate owners Aubert de Villaine of Domaine de la Romanée-Conti, Christian Roumier of Domaine Roumier and Laurent Ponsot of Domaine Ponsot to New York to testify at the trial.

Due to a projected late harvest in Burgundy this year, the trio have said they can be on hand to testify in early September, but would not be able to travel later in the month.

If the trail were pushed back, a video testimony would have to be used, which the prosecution prefers not to do.

“We encourage your honor to keep the 9 September trial date, because the alternatives are pretty grim,” lead prosecutor Jason Hernandez told the judge.

Kurniawan is on trial for four counts of fraud: mail and wire fraud to sell counterfeit wine, defrauding a finance company, double pledging collateral, and scheming to defraud a California wine collector and a NY auction house.

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