FORTUNE -- This does not bode well for Cupertino.
Asked during a preliminary hearing Thursday to share her thoughts about the Department of Justice's case against Apple (AAPL) in the long-awaited e-book antitrust trial, U.S. District Judge Denise Cote said this, according to Reuters:
"I believe that the government will be able to show at trial direct evidence that Apple knowingly participated in and facilitated a conspiracy to raise prices of e-books, and that the circumstantial evidence in this case, including the terms of the agreements, will confirm that."
Here's the thing: The trial doesn't begin until June 3. Also, there's no jury, so Judge Cote's decision is final, and she says she's already begun writing a draft of it.
In her defense -- a strange phrase to use about a judge -- she's had a chance to read some of the evidence. Much of it is contained in e-mails and correspondence exchanged over a six-week period before the launch of the iPad, when Apple and five book publishers worked on alternatives to Amazon's (AMZN) below-cost pricing model of $9.99 for bestsellers.
The book publishers have long since settled with the DOJ, leaving Apple as the sole defendant. It could be that Judge Cote is trying to put pressure on Apple to settle as well, something federal judges with heavy schedules have been known to do.
A lawyer representing Apple, unsurprisingly, took issue with the views Judge Cote expressed.
"We strongly disagree with the court's preliminary statements about the case today," said Orin Snyder of the firm Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher. "We look forward to presenting our evidence in open court and proving that Apple did not conspire to fix prices."
For background see:
Fortune's curated selection of tech stories from the last 24 hours. Sign up to get the round-up delivered to you each and every day.
* Apple (AAPL) has responded to the Department of Justice's antitrust charges of colluding with book publishers, claiming the accusations are not true. "The launch of the iBookstore in 2010 fostered innovation and competition, breaking Amazon's monopolistic grip on the publishing industry," the company said in a statement. "Since then customers MOREJP Mangalindan, Writer - Apr 13, 2012 11:34 AM ET
The flaws in Apple's plan to reinvent textbooks become apparent when you see Inkling's
One of the things the tech press missed last month when Apple (AAPL) summoned them -- satellite trucks and all -- to Manhattan's Guggenheim Museum for the unveiling of its new textbook authoring tools, is that Inkling got there first.
Launched two years ago by a former Apple educational marketing manager named Matt MacInnis, Inkling had already published MOREPhilip Elmer-DeWitt - Feb 14, 2012 10:00 AM ET
An impressive start, but how many of those 350,000 downloads were freebies?
Apple (AAPL) certainly got the attention of educators and the educational publishing community with the iPad textbook initiative it announced last Thursday. And no wonder. It's been a long time since anybody lavished that kind of attention and glitz on what has traditionally been an unglamorous -- albeit highly profitable -- corner of the book industry.
The first measure of MOREPhilip Elmer-DeWitt - Jan 23, 2012 3:08 PM ET
A look at the math behind yesterday's iBooks announcement.
By John Patrick Pullen, contributor
FORTUNE -- At yesterday's Apple event in New York City's Guggenheim Museum, senior vice president of worldwide marketing Phil Schiller was quick to point out how education has been at the core of the company since the beginning. But announcing a revamped iBooks program (as well as the launch of the iBooks Author and iTunes U apps) will MOREJan 20, 2012 3:33 PM ET
|Albertsons to merge with Safeway|
|GM raising Corvette prices|
|Everything must go: There's a flood of store closings|
|Bitcoin matters. Ignore the media circus.|
|Boeing reports wing cracks on Dreamliners|