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The Bravo TV personality is facing multiple counts of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and conspiracy to commit money laundering. If convicted on all charges, she faces a maximum of 50 years in prison.
Ahead of her trial, which begins March 22, Shah’s legal team filed a motion requesting that clips from the series not be shown.
“There is no circumstance under which a clip of Jen Shah from her appearance on the ‘RHOSLC’ should be used in court as these clips do not have any of the indicia of reliability,” her lawyers said. They explained that the reality show is “highly curated and edited to satisfy” its storylines, per People magazine.
Fox News Digital spoke to several legal experts to see what the likelihood Shah’s request is approved – or rejected – by a judge.
Per Neama Rahmani, who is a former federal prosecutor and is not involved in the case, “you can always put the defendant’s statements into evidence.” It’s called an “admission of a party opponent.”
“So to the extent that Shah makes statements on the ‘Real Housewives’ those can come in,” Rahmani, who is the president of West Coast Trial Lawyers, noted. “It doesn’t matter that it was on a reality TV show or any TV show or it was given to Homeland Security Investigations’ agents or some other third party. Those can come in. There’s no exclusion because it was on TV.”
Speaking to the defense’s argument, Rahmani acknowledged that if Shah’s legal team “can argue those are not her statements … or they were edited it in a way to make them inaccurate then the judge may exclude them on that basis.” However, the government can still also subpoena the raw footage.
“Things are looking bad for Jen Shah.”
“The unedited raw footage, it’s there, it exists, so there’s no way she’s going to be able to keep that out,” Rahmani stated. In the event that Shah argues “producers encouraged [her] to say things that were untrue for TV purposes,” Rahmani explained that is what’s deemed “weight” not “admissibility,” which the defense will have to argue to the jury.
“The defense can argue that it’s all staged but that’s an argument you make to a jury, it’s not going to keep that footage out entirely,” he said. Simply put, in Rahmani’s perspective, “There’s not a good legal basis to get this evidence excluded. It’s coming in.”
Meanwhile, Lara Yeretsian, a California-based criminal defense attorney, also stated that the judge might allow “unedited comments, as long as they’re not rehearsed” into the trial. However, Yeretsian emphasized that the footage needs to be “related to the charges involved” and Shah’s statements can’t be “scripted” or edited.”
“It’s very dependent on what it is [the prosecution] is trying to bring in,” Yeretsian, who is also not involved with the case, said. “I think most of it should not come in but again if there are specific things related to the charges those may come in as long as they’re unrehearsed and not edited.”
Yeretsian also noted that “the jury should only hear things that are true and reliable information … but again it would really be up to the judge.”
Unfortunately for Shah, the footage “can’t be used to help her.” “The only way she can get her story out is by taking the stand and testifying,” Rahmani stated. “If there’s an argument that, ‘Look, the prosecution is just playing one clip and the jury needs to see the whole video to really give context to it,’ it’s called the rule of completeness – the judge may put the whole clip or particular piece of evidence in.”
In 2021, the New York Police Department said in a statement at the time of Shah’s arrest that the number of victims Shah and her “first assistant” Stuart Smith had allegedly duped stood in the “hundreds” and noted that the alleged fraud had gone on for nearly a decade, starting in 2012.
Stuart Smith pleaded guilty and is scheduled to be sentenced next month.
“The fact that her assistant pled guilty is terrible for her so Smith’s guilty plea… that’s really bad when you have a co-defendant plead,” noted Rahmani. “Things are looking bad for Jen Shah.”