Lawyer who sued Chevron sentenced to six months for contempt
NEW YORK, Oct. 1 (Reuters) – An expelled US lawyer who has spent decades fighting Chevron Corp (CVX.N) over pollution in the Ecuadorian rainforest was sentenced to six months on Friday. imprisonment for criminal contempt as a result of a lawsuit filed by petroleum company.
US District Judge Loretta Preska convicted Steven Donziger after convicting him in May of “willfully” defying court orders, including failing to hand over his computer and other electronic devices.
“It seems only the proverbial two by four between the eyes instills in him respect for the law,” Preska said.
Donziger’s lawyer, Martin Garbus, called the sentence “outrageous”.
Chevron and private attorneys serving as prosecutors for the United States did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Donziger plans to appeal. He will remain in home confinement, where he has been for two years, if he appeals quickly. Preska refused bail pending appeal.
His conviction is the latest twist in a legal saga stemming from his portrayal of villagers in Ecuador’s Lago Agrio region who sought to hold Chevron responsible for the contamination of water and soil by Texaco between 1964 and 1992. Chevron a acquired Texaco in 2000.
Harvard Law School graduate Donziger won a $ 9.5 billion judgment against Chevron in an Ecuadorian court in 2011.
Chevron, based in San Ramon, Calif., Sued him in federal court in Manhattan later that year, claiming he and his associates pressured the presiding judge in Ecuador.
In 2014, U.S. District Judge Lewis Kaplan refused to enforce the $ 9.5 billion judgment, claiming it was obtained through bribery, fraud and extortion.
Chevron then sought to recover the money Donziger had personally raised in the Ecuadorian case, and Kaplan ordered Donziger to turn the electronics over to the company’s forensic experts.
When he refused, Kaplan charged him with criminal contempt. He was struck off the bar by a New York appeals court last year.
Report by Sébastien Malo in New York. Additional reporting by Jonathan Stempel. Editing by Noeleen Walder, David Bario and Matthew Lewis
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