A lawyer has warned that Jen Shah’s appearance on Season 3 of The Real Housewives of Salt Lake City could damage her fraud case.
Shah, who has appeared on the Bravo show since it began in 2020, was arrested in Utah while filming Season 2 of the hit series in March 2021, along with her then-assistant Stuart Smith.
The pair were accused of involvement in a telemarketing scheme that defrauded “hundreds” of people, many over the age of 55, by selling “lead lists” for fictitious business opportunities.
Shah pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit wire fraud in a New York court on July 11. She could face up to 30 years in prison.
Season 3 of The Real Housewives of Salt Lake Citywhich is currently airing, had finished filming before Shah pleaded guilty in July and in the new episodes she can be seen protesting her innocence to her cast mates, family and friends, as well as to the cameras in her individual confessional interviews.
The 49-year-old, who has two sons with husband Sharrieff Shah, said in a confessional interview on the season premiere on September 28: “I’m not going to take a plea deal when I’m not guilty. I’m innocent.”
These scenes have caused some confusion among fans who have been left puzzled by the timeline of events due to Shah’s protests of her innocence, despite her guilty plea.
Now Neama Rahmani, former federal prosecutor and current president of West Coast Trial Lawyers, has spoken to Newsweek about how these scenes could effect Shah’s sentencing, which was recently moved from November 18, 2022, to December 15, 2022.
Rahmani told Newsweek that the fact that the scenes of Shah saying she is innocent are airing after her guilty plea are “the last thing you want if you’re a criminal defense attorney.”
“One of the things judges look for is for acceptance of responsibility,” he said. “This was obviously filmed much earlier and it’s airing now … it’s certainly not a good look if you’re trying to paint a picture of a client who is remorseful and wants to make amends and those types of things. It’s definitely not good .”
Speaking about how Shah’s legal team may handle the situation, Rahmani said: “[Her lawyers] will say, ‘This was earlier, and she’s come around, and this is a new Jen Shah.’ They’re going to have to paint a very different story of her for the judge.”
Rahmani then referenced the case of former Los Angeles Angels employee Eric Kay who was sentenced to 22 years in federal prison on October 11 for providing baseball players Tyler Skaggs the drugs that led to his death by overdose.
According to ESPN, prosecutors presented evidence of Kay, 48, making derogatory comments about Skaggs, his family, prosecutors and jurors in phone calls and emails after he was convicted in February.
“He said some terrible things about the guy who died and the judge slammed him at sentencing,” Rahmani explained to Newsweek.
After revealing Kay’s sentence, US District Judge Terry R. Means said he had added two years because of Kay’s comments after the conviction, which included saying: “I’m here because of Tyler Skaggs. Well, he’s dead. So f**k him,” to his family.
The judge said Kay displayed “a callousness and refusal to accept responsibility and even be remorseful for something that you caused.”
Rahmani stressed that Shah’s case is wholly separate to Kay’s, but illustrated the point that judges are paying attention to what is happening outside of the courthouses.
“It’s a different case but it just sort of highlights that one of the things judges are looking for is someone who realizes what they’ve done is wrong and that they’re trying to make amends,” he continued.
“If someone is denying any sort of responsibility, those are the types of criminal defendants that get a lot more time.”
Newsweek has contacted representatives for Shah for comment.
After Shah entered her guilty plea in July her lawyer, Priya Chaudhry, told Newsweek in a statement: “Ms. Shah is a good woman who crossed a line. She accepts full responsibility for her actions and deeply apologizes to all who have been harmed.
“Ms. Shah is also sorry for disappointing her husband, children, family, friends, and supporters. Jen pleaded guilty because she wants to pay her debt to society and put this ordeal behind her and her family.”
Shah’s former assistant Smith also pleaded guilty to the charges filed against him.
The Real Housewives of Salt Lake City Season 3 airs on Bravo on Wednesdays at 9 pm ET. The previous two seasons are available to stream on Peacock.