The billion-dollar Kleiman v Wright trial is still set to go ahead on November 1, according to a status conference between the parties on Friday. However, the COVID-19 pandemic and humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan is making it difficult for the defendant, Dr. Craig Wright, to travel to Florida to attend the trial in person and may delay the trial further.
The status conference was called by Judge Beth Bloom to give attorneys for both sides the chance to discuss trial logistics in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Dr. Wright’s attorney, Amanda McGovern, expressed concerns with Dr. Wright’s ability to travel to the U.S. for trial. She said that Dr. Wright’s U.K. counsel have been trying since April to secure a travel exemption to be able to travel to Florida to prepare for trial and have had their exemption requests denied twice. The ongoing Afghanistan crisis has also become the priority of U.K. immigration officials, further frustrating the effort.
Though McGovern reiterated that Dr. Wright and his team are committed to beginning the trial on November 1, she stressed the importance of Dr. Wright attending in person, which would suggest further delays are possible if Dr. Wright is unable to find a way into the United States.
Judge Bloom also went over the precautions being taken to make the trial a safe environment. There will be air purifier in the courtroom throughout the proceedings, enhanced filters as well as plexiglass dividers, and all in the courtroom will be required to wear a mask.
The attorneys agreed to take some days to discuss potential considerations around COVID-19 and then return to the court with their questions, suggestions, or concerns; one issue that the parties are set to consider is whether the question jurors on vaccination status.
Judge Bloom also asked the parties if they have any objections to the trial being broadcast on Zoom. The parties said that they were comfortable with the idea, although Dr. Wright’s attorney Andrés Rivero expressed concerns over a recent incident in the Southern District Court where a member of the public broadcast a court proceeding online. Judge Bloom ultimately left the question open, though members of the public will be able to attend the trial in person.
The trial has been a long time coming. The lawsuit was initially filed in February of 2018 and the trial has been delayed multiple times, most recently from June to November. COVID has by and large been the culprit, with the Florida courts suspending civil trials to cope with the backlog the pandemic has caused.
The next date will be September 14’s calendar call, although parties agreed that this will now take place in person.
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