Cross-Examinations Continue and Tension Grows in “Varsity Blues” Trial

Water Polo Team

Partners Kori Bell and Stephen G. Larson continue to persist through cross-examinations to prove former University of Southern California (USC) water polo coach Jovan Vavic’s case despite challenging witnesses and the prosecution’s increasing “bullying” behavior, Law360 reported.

March 30-31 — USC Women’s Water Polo Associate Head Coach Casey Moon

For two days in court, the Larson team cross-examined Casey Moon. Law360 reported, “repeatedly dragged yes-or-no answers out into long explanations.” On the first day, after dismissing the jury for a break, U.S. District Judge Indira Talwani “told [Mr.] Moon he needed to provide direct answers to the questions.”

“When I have a trial, the most important people in the room are the jury,” she said. “They are entitled to all of our respect and attention. I am not going to admonish you again, Mr. Moon, in front of the jury.”

“The prosecution says that might lead to an improper impression,” she added, which Law360 noted was in reference to an earlier exchange with U.S Attorney Stephen E. Frank when he “complained that [Kori] was winding up with paragraph-long questions, to which [Judge Talwani] said he was guilty of the same,” stating that “the jury demands your respect” and then asking Mr. Moon to “please try to answer the questions.”

Mr. Frank then accused Judge Talwani of “shouting” at the witness, at which point Stephen, Law360 added, “for the second day in a row, stepped into the discussion in the judge’s defense.”

“Mr. Frank has said many times that you have been shouting. I want to say the court has not been yelling,” Stephen said. “This record should not be viewed un-objected to, that someone is shouting at anybody.”

The long-winded responses by the witness and tension in the court returned on Mr. Moon’s second day on the stand. “As he had done the previous day, [Mr.] Moon repeatedly expanded on his answers well beyond the ‘yes or no’ called for by [Kori’s] question,” Law360 reported. During a morning recess with the jury out of the room, Judge Talwani asked the witness’ attorney . . . to talk to [Mr.] Moon about only answering the questions as asked.

According to Law360, Mr. Frank “took exception to the judge’s words to [Mr. Moon’s attorney], calling the instruction ‘inappropriate’ and saying Judge Talwani repeatedly striking [Mr.] Moon’s extraneous testimony ‘sends a message to the jury.'”

He also argued that Kori “should stop asking the same question repeatedly in an effort to ‘plant phrases in the witness’ mouth.'” To which Kori swiftly replied, “What has to stop is Mr. Frank trying to bully, frankly, me and the court . . . He repeatedly cuts me off. I personally perceive it as a gender issue, and I am offended by it.”

The reference to “bullying” echoes words that Stephen and Judge Talwani used to describe Mr. Frank’s behavior earlier this week, Law360 noted, and Kori added that the “‘fashion’ in which [Mr.] Moon had been prepared by the government was making cross-examination difficult.”

Mr. Vavic “has maintained his innocence and said he only recruited people he believed to be real water polo players and any fraud was perpetrated by Singer or a former USC official, both of whom have pled guilty in the sweeping case,” Law360 summarized. During Kori’s cross-examination of Mr. Moon, he said “he did not recall various email exchanges with [Mr.] Vavic about recruits the government said were admitted to USC through fraud.” Through “lengthy exchanges,” Kori “tried to nail down how many emails [Mr.] Vavic received from recruits on a daily basis or how many student-athletes USC recruited in 2014.”

The prosecution is expected to rest their case on April 1, Mr. Moon’s final day on the stand.

Read the full article by Brian Dowling of Law360 covering March 30 in court here and the full article by Chris Villani of Law360 covering March 31 in court here (subscription required).


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