There was talk about guns from the witness box today, in the fifth day of the Rudy Kurniawan trial. And they might as well have been smoking guns.
Of the four witnesses today that included billionaire Bill Koch, David Parker had the moment of greatest drama. Parker owns two wine business in LA that sold Rudy seven bottles of 1962 Domaine de la Romanée Conti – Romanée Conti in June 2006. Parker had his own handwritten notes on the bottles when he sold them, including the fill lines, which were all more than two inches below the bottom of the cork. The bottles with the same serial numbers later appeared at auction—with noticeably higher fills, which would greatly increase their value. The prosecutor presented those same bottles to Parker in the witness box and furnished him with a ruler. Lo and behold, the wine was only an inch or so below the corks!
“Over time wine evaporates, it doesn’t regenerate?“ the prosecutor Jason Hernandez. Parker’s reply in the negative was barely audible above the chuckling.
Bill Koch, the avid and litigious collector who has 43,000 bottles split between two wine cellars, took the stand. The silver-maned billionaire told the prosecutor about cesium testing he had done on some of the 500 or so suspected fakes in his cellar. Under cross examination, the Jerome Mooney attempted to discredit the tests, asking the qualifications of those who undertook the tests and asking if their methods were peer-reviewed and whether any witness in this trial had vouched for them.
“No, but I could get someone here right away if you want,” replied Koch to more chuckles.
After a long discussion about antique rifles (Koch is also an avid collector of Western memorabilia), Mooney then attempted to return to the theme of wine paraphernalia as decorating items. Somehow he knew that Koch has a bathroom at two of his houses adorned with empty trophy bottles, pulled corks and labels. Two days ago, Mooney suggested the defendant was possibly using the bags of corks and labels found by the FBI at the Kurniawan house to decorate. The only thing the prosecutor forgot to ask during redirect was whether Koch also collected wax, stamps, and serial numbers for his bathrooms!
Antonio Castanos, owner of Guido’s restaurant in LA, testified that he consigned wines for Rudy Kurniawan at a February 2012 auction with houses Spectrum and Vanquish. In all, he made $400,000 in fees from consigning wine for Kurniawan, he said, while Kurniwan had asked him not to divulge the source of the wines. Despite this, “everybody knew” the wines came from Rudy.
Collector Doug Barzelay testified about various events and how his suspicion grew both about Rudy and wines he supplied to the market or events. Barzelay said he emailed Laurent Ponsont to inquire about suspect wines for sale at the now-infamous Acker 2008 auction. Ponsot, Christophe Roumier and Aubert de Villaine all testified yesterday.
The prosecution will call two more witnesses on Monday morning and then likely rest. Who the defense brings to the stand remains an open question. It will be interesting to see how long the jury deliberations will take since anything more than 10 minutes would seem unnecessary at this point.
In the hallway outside the courtroom during a break, people from the gallery were shocked at the poor quality of the defense counsel. One observer called it a “Mickey Mouse defense.” Another said, “there is no defense.” Others complained about a waste of time and money for the court and everyone participating. The counsel was dealt a really tough hand; given what we’ve seen thus far, it’s amazing they didn’t try to arrange a plea before the trial started. It might be possible to raise a reasonable doubt in the mind of the jurors. But this team isn’t doing it.