The presiding judge in the trial of Rudy Kurniawan has granted a request from the alleged fraudster's defense team that two psychiatrists be permitted to visit him in prison.
The request was contained in a November 7 letter to U.S. District Judge Richard Berman from Kurniawan's lawyer, Vincent Verdiramo. In it, he said the defense had retained S. Shane Konrad, M.D. and Virginia Barber-Rioja, Ph.D "to examine our client" at the Metropolitan Detention Center.
Federal prosecutors responded by expressing concern that "defense counsel may have already decided to present a defense of insanity or to offer inadmissible testimony about the defendant's mental state." They also suggested the request was "a last-minute attempt to delay the trial."
In a second letter to the judge, Kurniawan's L.A.-based counsel, Jerome H. Mooney, denied those claims and said: "There are certain things that have come to our attention during our brief time with our client that we believe require further evaluation ... Our determination of this need has only recently manifested."
Mooney added: "If he [Kurniawan] were not held in detention that would have been something we could have done without even telling anyone, especially the world."
Both sides said they were available for a status conference on the issue.
Online records for the Manhattan court show that Judge Berman authorized the psychiatric examination on November 12.
Kurniawan's trial is due to begin on December 9. Described in his indictment as "one of the most prominent and prolific dealers in the United States of purportedly rare and expensive wine," he is charged with mail fraud in a scheme to sell counterfeit wines, and wire fraud over a $3 million loan.
Witnesses called to give evidence at the trial include Lauren Ponsot of Domaine Ponsot, Christophe Roumier, head winemaker at Domaine Georges Roumier, and the co-owner of Domaine de la Romanée Conti, Aubert de Villaine,
The $1.3 million of fake wines that Kurniawan is accused of producing include wines from the three estates.