Los Angeles - The trial of nine food and wine professionals charged with turning a former San Joaquin Valley beauty queen into a wine snob got off to a tumultuous start Tuesday morning in a downtown federal courtroom as the prosecution laid out their case with a powerful opening statement that had jurors spellbound.
The defendants, known collectively as "The Wine 9", are alleged to have manipulated Kate Elizabeth Green, 29, the Miss Modesto of 2006, into a such an elitist that the mere mention of certain wines would, according to the deputy district attorney of Los Angeles, "bring her to a state so frenzied her only recourse was to slug tequila from an airplane bottle or even a flask."
The trial presents a major paradox for Miss Green. If found guilty, The Wine 9 - all close friends of Miss Green. - could be sent to in-house rehabilitation for up to seven years. If found not guilty, Miss Green could be charged with turning her own self into a wine snob, an even more serious offense. Miss Green has stated several times to the local media that "If it comes down to me or them, then let it be them because I am not - repeat not - doing time." Miss Green was present in the courtroom today and appeared visibly upset during much of the prosecution's opening statements to the six-man, six-woman racially mixed jury.
"The prosecution will show that Kate Green was demur, gentle, even elegantly meek until she met The Wine 9," said Assistant Los Angeles County District Attorney Michael Broadbent, a former wine critic and reformed wine snob himself. "Within a single month, a 30-day period, mind you, this sweet, innocent woman from a small farming community became an unruly tyrant who would rudely call out servers for their wine pairing suggestions."
At this point in this morning's proceedings, Broadbent, with United States District Court Judge Dan Perrelli's permission, showed a video clip of a server, Elyssa Phillips, offering a 2014 California Alexander Valley sauvignon blanc to go with grilled Santa Barbara spot prawns. Miss Green slams her fist on the white table cloth, glares at the server and says loudly. "Are you fuckin' serious?"
In the video clip, Miss Phillips. a self-proclaimed "Jew from Brooklyn" is rendered speechless, walks toward the kitchen and says to man with his back to her, "Jeremiah, I need you. KG is snobbing on 66". As the video ends in the courtroom, Miss Green loudly says "Shit", earning the admonishment of Judge Pirelli.
The nine defendants are David Rosoff, Gary "Two First Names" Alan, Taylor "Yes, I know (I have pretty eyes)" Grant, Jeremiah "J-Dawg" Henderson, Matt "Price Point" Bostick, Matthew "Hey, Lady I Own a Wine Bar" Kaner, Jared "Billy J" Hooper, Taylor "Breezy's Boy" Parsons, Sarah "Syrah" Clarke..
Surprising even seasoned courtroom observers, the trial of Green proceeded quite rapidly. After the prosecution's lengthy opening remarks, the lone lawyer for all nine defendants, Morty Goldstein, Jr,, gave the following opening statement: "My clients ain't even guilty."
He then called the first witness his own client, David Rosoff.
(It should be noted that normally the prosecution puts on their case first, however, due to legal reasons too complicated to get into now, for this trial the defense went first.)
It was Rosoff, the former general manager of Osteria Mozza and co-owner of a soon-to-open restaurant downtown, who the prosecution contends first guided Miss Green down the wine path. Rosoff, in unusually blunt testimony, did not contradict that belief. However, after questioning his own defense lawyer's bonafides ("Since when do you become a lawyer?") , Rosoff explained his actions were to save Green from a far worse fate.
"Kate was in the [Mozza] office going through Big Gulps of Coke like she had just traversed Mesopotamia in a Humvee during an August sand storm," said, Rosoff, adding Miss Green's desk was frequently littered McDonald's bags that, in his words "looked like they had been torn asunder by a red-nose pit bull. I guess that's how they roll in Modesto."
(Several courtroom observers later told Krikorian Writes that they saw Miss Green give Rosoff "the finger" at least four times during his testimony.)
Rosoff suggested she ditch the soda pop. "I was merely concerned about her health when I suggest she try wine instead. I didn't realize that once Kate figured out how crappy musicians were to be around that she would start hanging out with sommeliers and begin taking this crap so seriously."
However, under cross examination by Broadbent, Rosoff adamantly denied he was part of any group or conspiracy to turn Green out.
"I really don't see myself as an enabler or snob-inducing at all" Rosoff said. "Myself, I'm a spend less, drink more guy."
But, as so many defendants are apt to do, Rosoff continued to talk when he should have remained silent.
"I mean I'll drink wine so long as the more comes from the old world, is biodynamically grown, ferments with native yeasts, has seen no new oak and doesn't get a trace of filtration."
"Sounds like a snob to me," Broadbent bellowed
"Objection!" said Goldstein. "He's bullying the witness."
"Overruled," Perrelli declared..
"Nothing further at this time," said Broadbent.
"I have nothing further at this time," said Goldstein..
The next two witnesses, Matt "Price PoInt" Bostick and Sarah "Syrah" Clarke, both admitted they had "drank a glass or two of champagne " with Green, but not to an excess.
Syrah Clarke only gave one word answers to all nine questions asked of her. That word? "Krug".
However, under heavy questioning, Price Point admitted to some excesses.
"One time we were getting tacos at that shitty truck in the Pavillon's parking lot where the price point for the tacos is $1,25 and. no, wait. hold on. I think the price point is a dollar. Anyway. we got the Tees and..."
"Tees'?, asked Judge Pirelli.
"Yeah, Tees. Tees are short for tacos," Point answered. "I'm trying to lower my syllable footprint.".
"Continue," Judge Pirelli ordered, and then, under his breath, was heard to mutter "Idiot."
"Anyway," Point continued. "We got the Tees and Kate says 'Let's go back to my place get the a bottle of Krug I have in my closet.'
"Was it Krug's Clos d'Ambonnay?, asked judge Perrelli, almost salivating.
"No." Point answered.
"Anyway she want to the Krug. Me, I'm thinking the price point on the Tees is a buck and the price point on the Krug is like $280."
"So," Broadbent continued, "She was willing to drink a nearly $300 bottle of champagne with a taco that cost a, oops, I mean a Tee that had price point of one buck?"
""I have no further," Broadbent said.
"Redirect?" Perrelli asked.
"Nothing at this time, your honor."
At this point, surprising everybody, the defense called a witness who was not a member of the Wine 9, Theresa Gluck, the former manager of Mozza's Chi Spacca and current big wheel at HomeState..
"First of all, congratulations on your on your upcoming 'new addition," Goldstein said. nodding at Gluck's tummy."
"Thank you I didn't know if was so obvious.".
"Oh,no. It is not at all. I just overheard you earlier My apologies. Now, Miss Gluck, how would you describe Kate Green's wine knowledge".
"When I first got to know Kate, I wouldn't say she was a country bumpkin when it came to wine, but you can if you like.," Gluck said. "Kate loved her Franzia white zin in a box. That's as far from a wine snob as humanly possible. She's a very good person. A hard worker, Loyal to Miss Nancy. Kind hearted. Soulful. Just a nice person and not a snob.
"Mr. Broadbent, any cross examination?
"Only two brief questions your honor."
Prosecutor Michael Broadbent rose and solemnly approach the witness Gluck.
"Your pregnant, aren't you, Miss Gluck?"
"Objection? Goldstein said, "Relevance?"
"Your honor, Mister Goldstein himself brought up the woman's condition in his own questioning. He opened that topic up for cross examination. If the court will allow me to continue, the relevance will be apparent."
"Proceed," Perelli said. "Miss Gluck, answer the question."
"Yes, I am pregnant."
The district attorney moved in closer.
"And isn't it true you are considering naming your child Anushka?"
"Objection!" yelled Goldstein. "This woman's child's name has no relevance at all to these proceedings. She could name her kid Jupiter and it wouldn't show Kate Green is or is not a wine snob."
Judge Perrelli called for a brief sidebar and after a minute later addressed the court. "Mr. Goldstein brought it up . The question may be asked."
Broadbent repeated his cross examination. "Miss Gluck, are you considering naming your child Anushka ?
Goldstein leaped up. "Your honor, may I approach the witness?"
After a few seconds, Goldstein said "At this point my client would like to take advantage of her constitutional right and evoke the fifth amendment."
Green, obviously upset said "Oh, great. The one witness saying I'm a good person and not a wine snob turns out to be a Russian."
"Then let's recess for the day." Perrelli ordered.
"Great," Green mumbled. "Another day of this horse shit. I don't know if i can take this."
Eight of the Wine 9 rose from their chairs immediately. A few seconds later, when the ninth defendant, Jared Hooper, rose, something "clanked" to the floor. A flask. Suddenly, Hooper side-kicked the flask like it was a soccer ball. As if on cue, The Wine 9 turned into the Maradona-led Team Argentina circa 1986, kicking the flask with an unusual grace from defendant to defendant. Finally, Taylor Grant kicked the flask up into the air. As if in slow motion, the entire court room watched as it sailed end over end to the prosecution table where Kate Green reached up and grabbed it.
Green, wasted no time. She opened it up and took a healthy slug.
"Gran Patron Platinum," she said in a defiant, almost-royale manner. "Now, would a wine snob drink tequila?"
Kate Green was approached by the bailiff. Kate Green handed the flask to the bailiff. Kate Green said "Have a shot. You need this more than me if you actually work in this zoo.".
The trial of The Wine 9 is expected to resume next week.