Caso Chevron

Donziger Pushes To End Home Confinement In Chevron Case

Embattled attorney Steven Donziger is redoubling his bid for a New York federal court to set him free from home confinement and electronic monitoring in the wake of contempt charges in a case against Chevron Corp., arguing he is not a flight risk.

Law 360 - Kevin Penton 21/11/2019

Even as the court’s pretrial services office recommended that Donziger’s home confinement be rolled back to a curfew that only requires the lawyer to be at home from 10 p.m. to 7 a.m., the attorney sought Tuesday for the Southern District of New York to do away with the restriction altogether.

Donziger — who was sanctioned in May following a determination that he helped secure a fraudulent $9.5 billion judgment against Chevron Corp. in Ecuador — cited his regular appearances at court hearings in recent months as one example of why he should not be confined to his residence as the litigation proceeds, according to his second letter to the court on the issue.

“Mr. Donziger has no incentive to flee to Ecuador or any place else,” the letter reads. “Mr. Donziger is a lawyer who has lived in Manhattan for 25 years, has a son in eighth grade and has surrendered his passport.”

Rita Glavin of Seward & Kissel LLP, a court-appointed prosecutor, told the court earlier this month that Donziger is still stonewalling a March court order that underlies one of the criminal charges he’s facing and is thus in "willful" violation of federal law and the conditions of his pretrial release.

Despite his counsel’s promises that Donziger has a long list of people willing to co-sign his current $800,000 bond, none of the circumstances that led the court to restrict him to his Manhattan apartment under electronic monitoring have changed, Glavin told the court in her own letter.

"Donziger’s defiance demonstrates his belief that he is above the law and that only he decides if and how he will abide by court orders," Glavin wrote in her letter.

The home detention issue is a small skirmish in a lengthy and unusual battle between Chevron and Donziger over his role in landing a $9.5 billion environmental judgment against the company in Ecuador. The judgment stemmed from allegations that Chevron predecessor Texaco Inc. over decades destroyed natural resources and left indigenous residents diseased by crude oil dumped in the Amazon rainforest.

After a bitter Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act trial, U.S. District Judge Lewis A. Kaplan ruled that Donziger had manipulated the Ecuadorean judicial system through bribery and fraud, and he blocked the judgment's enforcement.

As Donziger continued post-trial to try to enforce the massive judgment in other jurisdictions, Chevron and its Gibson Dunn & Crutcher LLP lawyers stayed on the offensive, pressing the court for sanctions and contempt findings against him for violating a prohibition on profiting from the Ecuador award.

As part of a May contempt finding, Judge Kaplan agreed that Donziger had made at least $2.3 million by selling portions of his contingency stake in the judgment to investors and ordered him to forfeit his claim to the award and repay some $666,000.

After the Manhattan U.S. attorney's office declined Judge Kaplan's request to prosecute Donziger, the judge referred the contempt matter to Seward & Kissel for prosecution.

At an August hearing, U.S. District Judge Loretta A. Preska called the evidence against Donziger "strong" and said he would be facing jail time. Along with the $800,000 secured bond, Judge Preska ordered Donziger to surrender his passport and submit to GPS location monitoring.

Donziger was unrepresented at that hearing but has since retained Manhattan white collar defense attorney Andy Frisch to represent him.

Clavin and Frisch on Wednesday both declined to comment.

Chevron declined to comment, said Sean Comey, a spokesman for the company.

The contempt charge is being prosecuted by Rita M. Glavin, Brian P. Maloney and Sareen K. Armani of Seward & Kissell LLP.

Donziger is represented by Andy Frisch.

Chevron is represented by Randy M. Mastro, Andrea E. Neuman and William E. Thomson of Gibson Dunn & Crutcher LLP and Herbert J. Stern and Joel M. Silverstein of Stern Kilcullen & Rufolo LLC.

The case is Chevron Corp. v. Donziger et al., case number 1:11-cv-00691, in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York.

Fuente Original