SF Wine Blog

Exploring wine in and around San Francisco.

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Rudy Kurniawan Has a New Attorney

It has been widely reported that accused wine counterfeiter Rudy Kurniawan would be seeking new counsel to represent him in the criminal case brought by the U.S. Department of Justice.  It appears that Jerome Mooney of the Los Angeles law firm Weston, Garrou & Mooney will now be representing Mr. Kurniawan.

In a July 29, 2013 letter to U.S. District Judge Richard M. Berman, Mr. Mooney requested that he be allowed to appear telephonically on Mr. Kurniawan’s behalf at a hearing scheduled for July 31, 2013.  Judge Berman denied the request, stating, “Application respectfully denied.  (Enough is enough).”  You can view a copy of the letter and Judge Berman’s response through this link:  Letter from New Counsel for Kurniawan.

In other developments, federal prosecutors sent a letter to Judge Berman on July 22 arguing that the court should deny any request from Mr. Kurniawan for a continuance of the September 9, 2013 trial date.  In that letter, the government argued, “The Court should not adjourn the trial date because Kurniawan has failed to retain new counsel in a timely manner.”  The prosecutors also disclosed that during a July 18 conference, prospective substitute counsel for Kurniawan (including Mr. Mooney) “informed the Court that [they] will seek to substitute as counsel for Kurniawan, provided that Kurniawan’s family is able to fund his defense.”  That letter is available here:  Letter from AUSA to Judge Berman


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Plaintiffs Suing Charlie Trotter Amend Their Complaint Twice in 24 Hours.

The news of the lawsuit filed by New York based wine collectors against Charlie Trotter for the sale of an allegedly counterfeit magnum of 1945 Domaine de la Romanee-Conti flooded social media outlets on Friday.  Among the allegations in Plaintiffs initial complaint was a claim that none-other than DRC’s Aubert de Villain had “confirmed” that the bottle “was counterfeit because [DRC] only produced small yields in 1945 and as a result did not produce any large-format magnum-size bottles in that vintage.”  Original Complaint filed June 13, 2013 at Paragraph 16.

Yesterday, Plaintifs filed an amended complaint which made no mention of de Villain, and instead stated that DRC’s estate director Jean-Charles Cuvelier was “not able to categorically support or deny that [DRC] produced any large-format magnum-size bottles in that vintage, but that it is likely that none were produced.”

Then Plaintiffs filed a motion to strike that amended complaint claiming that they had filed the wrong version, and then proceeded to file a new version.  This latest complaint simply states that the information provided by Mr. Cuvelier to Plaintiff’s expert “confirmed the accuracy of [the expert’s] report.”

These amendments to the complaint do not necessarily detract from the potential strength of Plaintiffs case.  Plaintiffs have a report issued by noted expert Maureen Downey that allegedly supports their claim that the bottle is counterfeit.  But retracting factual allegations made in a court-filed complaint twice in twenty-four hours is not the way any litigant wants to kick-off a lawsuit.

Here’s a PDF highlighting the series of edits described above:  Comparison of Trotter Complaints

UPDATE 7/22/2013:  On Thursday, June 20, the District Court for the Northern District of Illinois granted plaintiff’s motion to strike.  The court also issued the following order, which requires the plaintiffs to file yet another amended complaint to correct an error made by plaintiffs’ counsel.  In their complaint, Plaintiffs claim that federal district court has jurisdiction over the matter based on diversity jurisdiction.  But instead of including allegations regarding the parties’ place of citizenship, the complaint only alleges where the parties reside.  Although the Court could have dismissed the complaint due to this error, the judge decided to give Plaintiffs’ counsel the opportunity to amend their complaint by July 8, 2013.  The Court  noted that  “no charge is to be made to Frrokajs [Plaintiffs] for the time and expense involved in correcting counsel’s errors. Frrokajs’ counsel are further directed to send a letter to their clients informing them to that effect, with a copy to be mailed to this Court’s chambers (purely for information, not for filing).”