Indonesian-born millionaire Rudy Kurniawan, once heralded as a promising collector and dealer of rare wines, has successfully changed defense counsel ahead of his trial on fraud charges.
After increasing tensions between Kurniawan and his original lawyer, Michael Proctor, and a series of behind-closed-doors discussions, U.S. district judge Richard Berman granted Kurniawan’s request to hire new counsel. Primarily as a result of the late switch, the trial has now been postponed until December 9.
Kurniawan was indicted last year and accused of fraudulently selling at least 84 bottles of counterfeit Burgundy to a New York auction house.
Prosecutors allege he had set up a winemaking laboratory in his Arcadia, California house, where they found a trove of counterfeiting tools including labels, corks, foils and bottles.
Proctor would not comment on the reasons for his dismissal.
Defense attorney Jerome Mooney of Los Angeles, C.A. will now represent Kurniawan and will be aided by Vincent Verdiramo Jr., of Jersey City, N.J.
Assistant U.S. attorney Jason P. Hernandez, co-prosecuting the case, was anxious for the original early September trial date to remain because he wanted key prosecution witnesses from Europe to be able to attend.
With a new December date now set, Fernandez said this week it was likely that the three Burgundy winemakers – Aubert de Villaine of Domaine de la Romanée-Conti, Christophe Roumier of Domaine Georges Roumier, and Laurent Ponsot of Domaine Ponsot – would be forced to testify via video.
Final witness lists have not yet been made available, but the judge has ruled that the government may proceed with videotaped testimonies from the three French citizens.