I had a bit of a break from the routine today as I travelled to Brooklyn to cover opening statements in the federal trial of Joseph Yannai, a restaurant book writer from Pound Ridge facing sex trafficking charges. Yannai, 67, is accused of luring young, foreign women to work as “personal assistants” and then intimidating and pressuring them to perform kinky acts.
As I walked into the gleaming, cavernous courtroom, I spotted Westchester County prosecutor Audrey Stone, who was the lead prosecutor in domestic violence trial of White Plains Mayor Adam Bradley. She was designated a special Assistant U.S. Attorney and is helping federal prosecutors Daniel Spector and Hilary Jager make their case against Yannai.
Stone seemed as impressed with the high-tech layout of the federal courtroom as I was. Two flat-screen monitors faced the gallery, and a third was inside the jury box. A wall-sized movie screen dropped from the ceiling so jurors could see documents up close. Microphones were everywhere and were tested before the judge entered. A clerk showed Stone how to operate a sophisticated overhead projector to display evidence.
I contrasted the scene with a typical Westchester County courtroom, where prosecutors have to wheel in a television monitor on a cart for the jury and where technical difficulties, especially when hooking up laptops, are the norm.
“We’re not in Kansas anymore,” Stone quipped.