It’s happened to everyone at some point in the past year, and on Wednesday, the arraignment of Jen Shah of Bravo’s “The Real Housewives of Salt Lake City” had to be rescheduled because every technical issue that could go wrong, did. The hearing, before United States District Judge Sidney H. Stein, came one day after the news broke that Shah had been charged and arrested for allegedly running a scam to defraud older people by selling “lead lists” for nonexistent business opportunities.
These are serious matters for Shah, who faces up to 30 years in prison for these alleged crimes. But the attempted arraignment over Skype was a comedy of errors.
The trouble began, as it so often does, when not everyone was muted. A toilet flushed, and the court clerk asked everybody to mute, except for the principles involved. Not everyone did. As participants waited for the arraignment to begin, echoes of what sounded like someone driving, another person asking “Do you watch Bravo?” and yet another saying “This is so dumb” interrupted the silence.
Though the lawyer for Shah’s co-defendant, Stuart Smith, had no problem being on the call, as he stated more than once, nor did Assistant U.S. Attorney Kiersten A. Fletcher, one of the prosecutors out of the Southern District of New York, from where the charges have been filed, Shah’s lawyer and Shah herself had crippling technical problems that led to the rescheduling.
First, Clayton Sims, Shah’s attorney, could not get off mute, leading Judge Stein to try to do tech support. “Mr. Sims, can you hear me?” the judge said in a near shout. Fletcher, the prosecutor, was able to reach Sims, who was out of the country, which he thought was causing the issues — but then somehow, miraculously, we were able to hear him, and he apologized profusely.
Because Shah and Smith are entitled to a public hearing, the judge was reluctant to ask everyone to sign off and back on, or to try to switch to AT&T teleconferencing, which the court clerk kept saying would be better. Shah hung up and tried to reconnect, but was unable to, perhaps because there were too many people on the call. Then Sims wanted to call Shah on his phone, and put her on speaker.
But that just did not work.
“The IT aspects of this are — I don’t know what they are,” said the judge at that point, speaking for all of us.
Forty-five minutes into the failed hearing, Stein rescheduled for Friday morning instead.