Comedian's podcast remarks during jury duty spur appeal by convicted defendant

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A convicted former currency trader has filed an appeal that is partly based on podcasts by an unhappy juror during the federal trial in New York City.

Akshay Aiyer has contended that juror Jake Letizia’s podcasts were “a flagrant violation of the judge’s instructions” to refrain from discussing the case with others or on any blog or website, the New York Times reports. Aiyer also said Letizia’s podcast remarks revealed his “contempt for the jury’s responsibilities.”

Aiyer was convicted in November 2019 of conspiring to manipulate prices in the global foreign currency exchange markets.

Letizia is a 27-year-old comedian and freelance video editor, according to the New York Times. On his weekly Talkin’ to Myself podcast, Letizia said he didn’t want to be on the jury, and he had stopped paying attention in court.

“Nobody wants to be there, dude,” he said.

He also made disparaging remarks about Aiyer, the judge and the lawyers.

But he didn’t reveal case details. And he did add that, “We’re going to be unbiased about the situation.”

Aiyer’s lawyers learned about the podcasts while researching jurors, a measure that they took after one juror told the judge that he felt intimidated by other jurors.

U.S. District Judge John G. Koeltl of the Southern District of New York refused to vacate the verdict, saying there was no evidence Letizia had been unfair during deliberations, according to the New York Times. Letizia appeared to be attentive in court, and his podcast complaints “appeared to be hyperbolic exaggerations,” Koeltl wrote. The judge also noted that Letizia’s podcast had few listeners.

In an interview with the New York Times, Letizia said his podcasts had only about 100 listeners, and his comments were usually exaggerated for comedic effect. He said he took his responsibilities seriously and had been impartial during the trial.

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