SALT LAKE CITY — Questions offered to potential jurors in the upcoming fraud trial of ‘Real Housewives of Salt Lake City’ star Jen Shah include a discussion of the reality TV show and whether what’s depicted at the screen is even “real”.
A series of questions filed in U.S. District Court in New York ask potential jurors about their feelings on the popular show about the friendships and feuds of six Utah women. On the show, Shah is portrayed as a sometimes mercurial businesswoman from Park City and the wife of an assistant football coach at the University of Utah.
In addition to standard fraud and white-collar crime questions, voir dire questions ask whether a potential juror or family members have watched an episode of “Real Housewives of Salt Lake City” or followed fan blogs. , Internet documentaries or read tabloid accounts. of Shah’s case.
“Are any of you a fan of any of the Real Housewives shows? Does your opinion of the show and the people who appear on it influence how you view Jen Shah?” asked a series of questions.
“If you’ve never seen any of the Real Housewives shows, do you have any preconceived ideas about the type of people who appear on the show, and would those ideas influence how you viewed the evidence in this case?” asked another section.
“Do you believe that all of the housewives who appear in the franchise are wealthy?”
“Do you believe that what you see on the show is, in fact, real?
“Do any of you think what happens on reality TV shows is actually real?”
The Shah’s defense attorney, Priya Chaudhry, asked jurors if they would watch any clips while the case was in progress. She separately filed a motion to block federal prosecutors from showing the jury clips of the show as part of their case against Shah, arguing it would be “hearsay” to allow it.
Chaudhry noted the selective editing of reality TV shows, the creation of “scripts” for cast members of Bravo TV’s “Real Housewives” franchises, and the perception of wealth in each show.
“There has to be a story and a narrative to create drama and keep viewers interested. So the question arises: how fake or real are the women and lives depicted in Housewives? The answer is : women and their lives are both real and fake and it is impossible to tell where reality ends and where fantasy begins, outright deception and falsehood,” Chaudhry wrote to the judge.
She argued that the clips shown on television, due to the extensive and selective editing to advance certain storylines, “make them particularly unsuitable for admission under the rules of evidence”.
“So even though some of what happens in a particular episode of Housewives has an aspect of reality, in that Ms. Shah is playing a character called Jen Shah and not a totally fictional character who never existed, she nevertheless plays a ‘character’ who is shaped by the demands of being on the RHOSLC and any statements, made in the context of playing that character in a show that has been highly curated and edited to satisfy his dramatic demands, have not indicia of reliability that would permit admission to trial under the hearsay rule or any evidentiary rule.Nor are these clips to be used for cross-examination as prior inconsistent statements for the same reason,” Chaudhry wrote.
The government will respond to the filing before U.S. District Court Judge Sidney Stein issues a ruling on whether jurors should see clips from the show, if the case goes to trial.
Shah pleaded not guilty to fraud charges in multimillion-dollar New York-based case. She is among many defendants charged in a 2019 telemarketing scheme. Federal prosecutors allege that Shah and his assistant, Stuart Smith, were involved in generating “lead lists” of potential customers for business opportunities and were ultimately scammed.
“Ms. Shah’s defense is that although she worked in the telemarketing industry and worked with many people who are witnesses in this case, including Stuart Smith, she had no part in the fraud,” Chaurdhry wrote. in a query.
Shah is expected to stand trial in March. Smith pleaded guilty to fraud charges.
Read the defense brief here: