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Kurniawan May Plead Insanity in Fraud Trial

Kurniawan became known as "Dr Conti" because of his fondness for the label
© AFP | Kurniawan became known as "Dr Conti" because of his fondness for the label
Fresh legal moves in upcoming wine-fraud trial.

Federal prosecutors in the trial of alleged wine counterfeiter Rudy Kurniawan, aka "Dr Conti" and "Mr. 47," have expressed concern that he is planning to raise a defense of insanity or claim that he is not competent to stand trial.

A letter to U.S. District Judge Richard Berman dated November 7, seen by Wine-Searcher on the court's electronic records, calls for an immediate conference to address a request from Kurniawan's defense counsel "to allow two forensic psychiatrists to examine the defendant" in prison.

The request from Kurniawan's lawyer, Vincent Verdiramo, is contained in an earlier letter to the judge, which says: "The defense has retained S. Shane Konrad, M.D. and Virginia Barber-Rioja, Ph.D. to examine our client." It asks for a court order to allow the examination to take place.

In their response, assistant U.S. attorneys Jason Hernandez and Joseph Facciponti say the two forensic psychiatrists alluded to in Verdiramo's letter have been listed among the names of people who may be mentioned during the upcoming trial.

"In other words, defense counsel may have already decided to present expert testimony to establish a defense of insanity or to offer inadmissible testimony about the defendant's mental state," state Hernandez and Facciponti.

In addition, the prosecutors express "abiding concerns that defense counsel's request is a last-minute attempt to delay the trial."

Witnesses are due to travel from France, California and Oregon to testify in court, with the trial due to begin in early December.

Kurniawan is alleged to have produced more than $1.3 million worth of counterfeit wines, including 84 bottles of fake Burgundy that he consigned to a New York auction house, which are cited in the indictment.

Related stories: 

Kurniawan Trial Postponed

Kurniawan Renews Not Guilty Plea

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