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Bizarre case of former Marin wine dealer in wine warehouse arson trial

on 05/08/11 at 9:13 am

Booze News

A former Sausalito wine keeper who pleaded guilty to setting a warehouse fire that destroyed 6 million bottles of wine valued at more than $200 million asked a judge on Tuesday to withdraw his plea and go to trial instead.

Mark Anderson, 62, told a federal judge that his former attorney, Mark Reichel, was unprepared to try his case and duped him into pleading guilty by promising a short sentence. He has yet to be sentenced.

Reichel denies the allegations and in court filings has characterized Anderson as “extremely difficult to work with” and said representing him was a “nightmare.”

“Mr. Anderson routinely preferred to discuss anything other than his case,” he wrote. “He desired that my time and my investigator’s time be spent listening to him spin yarns with stories of all the great things he had done in his life. It was a bizarre experience.”

Reichel’s response was included in a filing by U.S. Attorney Benjamin Wagner in June opposing Anderson’s motion to withdraw his guilty plea.

It prompted an angry and dramatic response from Anderson.

“If one were going to ask someone to attempt to castigate, humiliate and pontificate about something he does not understand or comprehend, with all the pomposity and subtlety of a Victorian costermonger, Mr. Reichel would certainly win a penny at the circus,” Anderson wrote in July. “He threw me under the bus.”

Anderson pleaded guilty in November 2009 to 19 criminal counts, including arson, mail fraud and tax evasion, in the 2005 fire on Vallejo’s Mare Island. It destroyed bottles belonging to 92 wineries and 42 private collectors. Some of the wines were considered rare.

{FULL STORY via Mercury News}

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