By: Kaitlyn Calogero

“The only thing I’m guilty of is being Shah-mazing!”[1]

For fans of any Real Housewives franchise, there comes a certain excitement when the taglines are introduced for a new season. With Season Two of The Real Housewives of Salt Lake City (hereinafter RHOSLC), however, there was a different kind of anticipation. On March 30, 2021, cast member Jen Shah was arrested and indicted on counts of conspiracy to commit wire fraud in connection with telemarketing and conspiracy to commit money laundering.[2] Her “First Assistant,” Stuart Smith, was also arrested. It was all the internet could discuss, and even became the subject of a Hulu documentary.[3] With RHOSLC’s current season showing the arrest and the aftermath, conversation has reignited about Shah’s indictment and is prompting the internet to consider a variety of questions; (1) how vulnerable groups, like the elderly, are being exploited and what protections are lacking; (2) how a federal indictment and investigation are impacted when filmed for reality television and the broader concerns of creating content from this; and (3) how race impacts the way law enforcement interacts with the community. This blog will be focusing on the question of how a federal case is impacted when filmed for public enjoyment and explores the concerns raised by Shah’s legal team from her motion to dismiss.

Shah and Smith were arrested in March 2021 and indicted on two counts by a grand jury.[4] The first count, which is to commit wire fraud and target at least ten people over the age of 55, violates and invokes parts of the United States Code.[5] The alleged fraud included forcing people “to pay thousands of dollars to obtain so-called ‘coaching’ and ‘business services,’ which they represented would make the management of the victims’ purported online businesses more efficient and/or profitable, when, in actuality, the ‘services’ would provide little or no value to the victims’ businesses, which were essentially non-existent.”[6] The second count, conspiracy to commit money laundering, also invoked the United States Code.[7]

Due to the nature of the case, this is in federal court. Both Shah and Smith initially pled not guilty to both counts; however, in November 2021, Smith changed his plea to guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering, and an additional count of obstruction of justice.[8] Shah’s trial is currently set for March 2022, but with the uncertainties of Covid-19, this might change.[9]Shah also filed several motions with the court requesting the case be dismissed.[10] The memorandums that Shah’s legal team filed request numerous forms of relief for different grounds, including asking for a dismissal because the indictment is “insufficient and for failing to allege materiality,” and motioning to suppress Shah’s post-arrest statements at trial.[11]

Most recently, Shah filed a motion for sanctions and to dismiss alleging that the Hulu documentary from ABC News, entitled The Housewife and the Shah Shocker, would influence the jury and therefore impede Shah’s right to a fair trial.[12] The documentary was specifically about Shah’s case and telemarketing fraud in general.[13] The heart of the motion lies in the fact that two special agents from Homeland Security Investigations- New York, one of two agencies assigned to the case, gave interviews with ABC News.[14] The motion alleges that the two agents violated “Local Criminal Rule 23.1.”[15] Shah also claims that these agents’ interviews allude to her guilt and implicate her in a series of crimes that will impede her right to a fair trial by tainting the jury pool.[16] Additionally, this motion mentions that Shah’s legal team was approached several times about taking part in the documentary, but declined.[17] As a result, she requested to dismiss the indictment, impose sanctions on the government, and engage in discovery to understand the extent to the government’s involvement with ABC News in the documentary.[18] This motion, however, does not mention that RHOSLC was airing at the same time the documentary was airing. The Government’s Opposition discusses how Shah has continued filming with the rest of the cast post-arrest, though.[19]

Ultimately, the judge denied this Motion in full in December 2021.[20] In the Order, U.S. District Judge Sidney H. Stein said that the denial was two-fold.[21] To start, the threshold to dismiss an indictment is very high, and it is very rare, as United States v. Fields holds.[22] This case does not rise to that; specifically, even if the Government partly caused any negative pretrial publicity, this would still not warrant a dismissal.[23] The only other way to show cause for an indictment were to be if any errors prejudiced the Defendant.[24] Since there was no voir dire nor a showing of prejudice, there was no reason to dismiss the indictment.[25] There is no legal standard that exists in Shah’s case that would allow for a dismissal.

Second, the Homeland Security agents did not violate any Rules in their interview.[26] In the Government’s Opposition to the Motion, it laid out every single word each agent said during the documentary[27]. These interviews did not discuss Shah in particular when discussing guilt, but spoke generally, and only directly mentioned Shah once in an objective statement.[28] S.D.N.Y. Local Criminal Rule 23.1 states that non-public information cannot be released “if there is a substantial likelihood that such dissemination will interfere with a fair trial or otherwise prejudice the due administration of justice.”[29] However, Judge Stein reasons that the agents who provided interviews for the Hulu documentary did not violate this or interfere with a fair trial.[30] Lastly, even if there was the potential for a tainted jury, a voir dire can cure that.[31]

Now, audiences are excited to see where the rest of the season takes them. However, something even more compelling is considering Shah’s decision to continue filming after being federally indicted. And on top of that, to sign onto filming for another season while awaiting her trial, as Season 3 of RHOSLC is currently filming.[32]Now, Shah’s legal team objected to the Hulu documentary discussing Shah’s case and telemarketing schemes. But, Shah is using RHOSLC to preach her innocence, which is also a way to influence a jury.[33]She subjected herself to the spotlight and continues to do so amidst a federal investigation. Where does the distinction lie, then? The right to a fair trial works both ways. Shah is using RHOSLC to influence a potential jury that she is innocent. Her legal team only takes issue with the media when it is criticizing her. Judge Stein’s imparting thoughts in the Order even hint at jury prejudice working both ways in this case.[34] So, where is the line drawn? And lastly, what comes next? Well, the internet and RHOSLC fans wait to see if Shah’s trial takes place in March 2022.

[1] The Real Housewives of Salt Lake City: Best of Frenemies (Bravo television broadcast Sept. 12, 2021) (introducing Jen Shah’s Season Two tagline).

[2] Sarah Hearon, ‘Real Housewives of Salt Lake City’ Star Jen Shah Arrested for Alleged Telemarketing Fraud Scheme,Us Weekly (Mar. 30, 2021), (providing a summary of Shah’s legal case); Alison Frankel, Salt Lake City ‘Real Housewife’ Star Indicted in Nationwide Telemarketing Scheme, Westlaw J. White-Collar Crime: Alison Frankel’s On the Case(April 20, 2021), (summarizing the legal implication of Shah’s arrest and indictment).

[3] Katie Campione, Jen Shah’s Motion to Dismiss Her Fraud Case Due to Hulu Documentary Denied by Federal Judge, People (Dec. 10, 2021), (emphasizing the popularity around Shah’s legal case and the aftermath of her arrest while filming Season 2 of RHOSLC).

[4] Sealed Superseding Indictment at 1, 5, United States v. Shah, 1:19-cr-00833-SHS, ECF No. 186 (Mar. 30, 2021) (announcing all specific information regarding Shah and Smith’s Grand Jury indictment, including each count and the accompanying allegations).

[5] 18 U.S.C. §§ 1343, 2325-26 (codifying the ramifications of wire fraud and telemarketing fraud as well as defining certain terms).

[6] Sealed Superseding Indictment at 5, ECF No. 186.

[7] 18 U.S.C. §§ 1956(a)(1)(B)(i)-(ii), 1957(a) (explaining what money laundering is and the penalties associated with it).

[8] Eliza Thompson, Jen Shah’s Assistant Stuart Smith Changes Plea to Guilty, Admits to Hiding Money and Committing Perjury, Us Weekly (Nov. 29, 2021), (reporting that Smith changed his plea and how it affects his case, and in turn, Shah’s case).

[9] Sarah Hearon, Jen Shah’s Legal Drama: Everything We Know About Her Job, ‘RHOSLC’ Status, Arrest and More, Us Weekly (Dec. 13, 2021), (providing insight into Shah’s future trial).

[10] See generally Mem. of Law in Supp. of Def. Jennifer Shah’s Pre-Trial Mots., United States v. Shah, No. S4 1:19-cr-0833 (SHS), 2021 WL 2581217 (S.D.N.Y. Jun. 14, 2021), (exhibiting and outlining Shah’s several attempts at trying to either delay her impending trial, to reduce her charges, or to dismiss the case altogether).

[11] See id.; see generally Reply Mem. of Law in Supp. of Def. Jennifer Shah’s Pre-Trial Mots., United States v. Shah, No. S4 1:19-cr-0833 (SHS), 2021 WL 3128780 (S.D.N.Y. Jul. 14, 2021),

[12] See Campione, supra note 3 (summarizing Shah’s latest motion filing in her case).

[13] Mot. for Sanctions at 1, United States v. Shah, 1:19-cr-00833-SHS, ECF No. 406 (Nov. 30, 2021) (alleging that the Government’s involvement in the documentary impeded Shah’s right to a fair trial).

[14] See id. at 1-2 (asserting that the two agents are part of the prosecutorial team in Shah’s case).

[15] See id. at 2; S.D.N.Y. Local Criminal Rule 23.1 (implying that the agents’ interviews hindered Shah’s right to a fair trial).

[16] Mot. for Sanctions at 1, 3, ECF No. 406 (focusing specifically on the two agents’ comments and interviews on the Hulu documentary, and only barely referencing the program on the aggregate); see also S.D.N.Y. Local Criminal Rule 23.1(a) (propounding that “[i]t is the duty of… government agents… not to release or authorize the release of non-public information or opinion which a reasonable person would expect to be disseminated by means of public communication, in connection with pending or imminent criminal litigation with which they are associated, if there is a substantial likelihood that such dissemination will interfere with a fair trial or otherwise prejudice the due administration of justice”).

[17] Mot. for Sanctions at 2, ECF No. 406 (implying that Shah’s legal team’s refusal to take part in the documentary proves that the two agents had violated Rule 23.1 by taking part in the interviews).

[18] See Mot. for Sanctions at 1, 3, ECF No. 406 (summarizing Shah’s request within the motion).

[19] Resp. in Opp’n to Mot. for Sanctions at 4, United States v. Shah, 1:19-cr-00833-SHS, ECF No. 409 (Dec. 3, 2021) (noting that Shah has continued to participate in filming RHOSLC post-arrest and is unconcerned with any implications from that).

[20] Order Den. Mot. for Sanctions at 1, 2, United States v. Shah, 1:19-cr-00833-SHS, ECF No. 418 (Dec. 10, 2021) (denying the motion for sanctions and to dismiss).

[21] See id. at 1 (explaining the overarching reasons for the dismissal).

[22] See id. (holding that Shah’s case is not one that would warrant a dismissal of an indictment, as it is an “extreme sanction” and is used “only in the rare case” (citing United States v. Fields, 592 F.2d 638, 647-48 (2d Cir. 1978))).

[23] See id. (asserting that dismissal of an indictment before a voir dire is an “extreme remedy” (citing United States v. Curcio, 712 F.2d 1532, 1544 (2d Cir. 1983))).

[24] See id. (explaining the other condition where an indictment could be dismissed (citing United States v. Walters, 910 F.3d 11, 23 (2d Cir. 2018))).

[25] See id. (suggesting that since voir dire has not even taken place, there can be no assessment as to whether the documentary actually impeded a fair trial).

[26] See id. (ruling that S.D.N.Y. Local Criminal Rule 23.1 was not violated).

[27] Resp. in Opp’n to Mot. for Sanctions at 2-3, ECF No. 409 (providing the text of what each agent said during the entirety of the documentary).

[28] See id. at 4 (demonstrating that the agents’ interviews did not discuss Shah specifically in a bad light, only those convicted of telemarketing fraud).

[29] S.D.N.Y. Local Criminal Rule 23.1.

[30] Order Den. Mot. for Sanctions at 1, ECF No. 418 (asserting that the agents’ statements were generally “about telemarketing fraud overall, with general references to the lifestyles of the persons involved and a Homeland Security investigation into telemarketing floors”).

[31] See id. (holding that voir dire can cure any potential issues or harm that the Hulu documentary may have caused in Shah’s future trial).

[32] Ally Mauch & Lanae Brody, RHOSLC’s Mary Cosby ‘Has Not Filmed’ for Season 3 After Skipping Season 2 Reunion, Source Says, People (Jan. 21, 2022), (claiming that a source told the news outlet that Shah started filming Season 3 of RHOSLC).

[33] The Real Housewives of Salt Lake City: Fair Weather Friends (Bravo television broadcast Dec. 12, 2021) (showing Shah having lunch with co-star Heather Gay and explaining the day of the arrest, proclaiming her innocence).

[34] Order Den. Mot. for Sanctions at 1-2, ECF No. 418 (concluding with a reminder to all parties that S.D.N.Y. Local Criminal Rule 23.1 needs to be complied with).
























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