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Peter Keane sauntered into court with all the confidence in the world as he readied himself to defend San Francisco in a case brought by famed opera tenor Enrico Caruso. Decked out in a vintage light charcoal suit, Keane strutted his way into the courtroom, pumping his clenched hands overhead in victory before a single witness had even testified. Keane represented the city against Caruso’s claims that he deserved some cash for the pain and suffering he endured after being awakened during the 1906 earthquake. Aside from facing what barely qualified as even a flimsy lawsuit, Keane had something else on his side — judicial corruption. “This trial is fixed,” he said. “We’ve paid off the judge; the jury was paid off.” That and the trial were scripted. Golden Gate University School of Law Dean Keane and his nine-member cast of attorneys, academics, judges and more acted out the fictional case as part of a weekend-long celebration of the school’s 100 year anniversary. Before an audience of approximately 150 in the Palace Hotel’s Twin Peaks Room, Keane and company put on a gaudy mock trial filled with tales of corruption, history and a temperamental opera singer. Caruso, played by former Mayor Frank Jordan’s press secretary Noah Griffin, claimed that the 1906 earthquake left him so shattered that his once-famous tenor voice had deteriorated into what amounted to only a pretty good baritone. While the quake didn’t have any effect on the real Caruso’s voice and he never did bring an actual suit, at least a few parts of the mock trial were rooted in reality. Caruso actually was sleeping at the Palace Hotel when the earthquake hit. And the quake did jerk him out of his slumber at 5 a.m. Just as Keane finished making his entrance, the mock trial kicked into gear with a healthy dose of bribery. Sitting in a witness chair beside the judge, Gregor Guy-Smith — who played ex-San Francisco Mayor Eugene Schmitz — got up and dropped a cigar on the desk of retired Judge George Choppelas. “You, as a public official, should know that giving the judge a cigar — and a Havana cigar at that — gives the perspective that you’re trying to influence the court in this matter,” Choppelas said. “I’m going to ask that you take this cigar back and that you remember that when you appear before me, a bottle of good Scotch is more appropriate.” Making a fashionably late entrance, Griffin, playing Caruso, glided onto the stage in a long black draping coat, black velvet tie and big purple hat with green feather. During his testimony, a waiter repeatedly interrupted Keane’s cross-examination to serve the star a vegetable platter, offer a glass of red wine, and give the singer a little relaxing massage. Slightly shaken, Keane pressed on. The law school dean tried to paint the opera singer as a haughty star too self-important to get his own hands dirty trying to save San Franciscans injured in the quake. When Keane questioned his own witness, Mayor Schmitz, he built his defense on the foundation of a corrupt mayor. Caruso claimed that he came to sing in San Francisco based on the mayor’s assurance in a letter that there would be no quakes during his visit. Keane pointed out that the mayor only provided favors for money, and that if no money changed hands, neither could a favor be promised. In the end, the city won its case per a hand vote of the audience/jury. After losing his case, Griffin graciously led the cast and audience in renditions of “Volare” and “San Francisco.” Asked later if he was a lawyer, Griffin said he did in fact have a law degree — but, he added, “I’m a gentleman, I don’t use it.”

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