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Monday, May 27, 2024 | Back issues
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Accused Con Man|Doesn’t Move Judges

SAN FRANCISCO (CN) - Accused art fraudster Luke Brugnara will remain in jail until his trial this month, having been denied bail by two federal judges after hours of hearings Wednesday.

At his first detention hearing, before Magistrate Judge Nathanael Cousins, Brugnara called himself an "economic hero," rattling off his real estate deals and becoming combative when Cousins said he had proffered no new evidence why he is not an economic danger to the public.

"Your constantly trying to discount my accomplishments and achievements is unfair," Brugnara said, waiving a Las Vegas magazine with his photo on the cover.

"I've heard these assertions before," Cousins said. "I've already seen the magazine. There's no question about your business acumen 10 years ago."

Brugnara, 51, is accused of stealing $11 million worth of fine art.

Contempt and escape charges were added after he skedaddled from the San Francisco Federal Building on Feb. 6.

He claims his court-appointed attorney, who has since withdrawn, let him leave because he wasn't prepared for trial.

The furlough to meet with the lawyer had been granted by U.S. District Judge William Alsup, who allowed Brugnara to be taken from the Glenn Dyer Jail in Alameda and shuttled to San Francisco.

On Wednesday, Cousins cited Brugnara's escape as reason for him to stay put.

"I'm very disappointed in you," Brugnara told the judge. "I'm going to be released in a few weeks and anyone associated with these injustices will be held accountable. There's game-playing going on in this case and there will be consequences."

At a later hearing before Alsup, Brugnara recited the same litany of reasons and asked Alsup to overturn Cousins' decision. He also complained about maltreatment at the Glenn Dyer Jail.

"They call it dire for a reason," Brugnara said. He also claimed to have wasting syndrome, and possibly cancer.

Brugnara offered to pay for a U.S. marshal to sit outside his house 24 hours a day until trial, drawing smirks from the uniformed officers in the courtroom.

Alsup, looking alternately bored and amused through the hour-long hearing, rejected that request.

Brugnara grew increasingly belligerent, prompting the marshals to circle him, handcuffs at the ready. But Alsup declined to have him removed.

He refused to overrule Cousins, citing Brugnara's violations of his release conditions and escape.

"You have the gall to say you want me to do it again. To be fooled again. No way am I going to do that. I'd be laughed out of the country if I did that," Alsup said.

"You should accept some of the blame," Brugnara said. "I begged you for medical treatment." He vowed to appeal to the 9th Circuit.

"Take it to the International Court of the Hague if you want to, but you'll stay in custody until I'm overruled," Alsup said.

Brugnara, ever to have the last word, replied, "This trial is going to be very fun for me. It's going to be a show."

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