Accused Fraudster Luke Brugnara Appears in Court Without Shoes

Luke Brugnara. Photo courtesy of the US Marshals Service.

If alleged art swindler Luke Brugnara escapes prison, we think he has a future in comedy, especially if he can entice U.S. District Judge William Alsup and US Attorney Ben Kingsley to take the act on the road with him.

Brugnara showed up shoeless at court in San Francisco yesterday on his first day of trial, according to Courthouse News Service, giving rise to an absurd exchange worthy of the stage or the silver screen.

“Brugnara appeared before Alsup on Monday in a striped shirt, oversized tan blazer and prison-issued sandals, giving his name to Alsup and adding ‘appearing without shoes,’” says Courthouse News, adding that he blamed the U.S. Marshals Service for the inappropriate fashion statement.

“Why doesn’t this man have any shoes, for Christ’s sake?” Alsup reportedly said. “He’s on trial and could go to jail and you want him to appear barefooted?”

Kingsley then loaned Brugnara a spare pair that he keeps in his office.

Brugnara, who claimed to have “no fashion sense,” apparently said, “I’m going to keep them.” (Does he really want to give the impression of sticky fingers, we wonder?)

Having none of it, Alsup shot back, “They’re not a gift.”

Brugnara is accused of having arranged to buy artworks by Willem de Kooning, Edgar Degas, Joan Miró, and Pablo Picasso from Tennessee-based dealer Rose Ramey Long in 2014, claiming that he was opening an art museum in San Francisco. After receiving the works, he was allegedly unable to pay, and later claimed he had received the art as a gift.

He then went on the run, giving authorities the slip during a meeting with his lawyer, and later threatened a judge with “consequences.” His lawyer withdrew his services, and he’s now representing himself.

The jury reportedly includes a tax and probate attorney who has represented an architect, the Grateful Dead’s Jerry Garcia, and “a retired electrician with a penchant for giving U.S. District Judge William Alsup the thumbs up.”

At one point Alsup told prosecutors, “This is not an easy trial to run.”

“I understand,” Kingsley said. “The defendant is wearing my shoes.”

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