Steven Donziger, the attorney who has spearheaded a prolonged struggle against Chevron in excess of air pollution in the Amazon rainforest, has been found guilty of prison contempt by a US federal judge in the newest twist in his a long time-very long lawful struggle with the oil business.
On Monday, US district decide Loretta Preska dominated that Donziger was guilty of 6 contempt fees introduced against him for refusing to hand more than proof in a elaborate legal wrangle that has pitted the law firm immediately against Chevron.
In a 245-website page judgment, Preska mentioned that Donziger had “repeatedly and willfully” defied court docket orders and that “at stake below is the essential basic principle that a occasion to a authorized action ought to abide by court docket orders or hazard legal sanctions”. Preska included that “it’s time to pay back the piper”, with Donziger now facing 6 months in jail. The attorney known as the ruling a “sad working day for the rule of regulation, for our democracy, and for our planet” and that he will appeal.
Donziger has previously used just about two many years confined to his New York Metropolis condominium by court docket order, a checking bracelet that he calls “the black claw” equipped to his ankle at all moments, and his detention has attained him the support of environmental activists and celebs this sort of as Alec Baldwin and the Pink Floyd singer Roger Waters, who insist he has been persecuted.
“I expected this and I imagine we’ve received a incredibly robust opportunity on attraction. I be expecting to be vindicated,” Donziger told the Guardian immediately after the verdict. “The whole point was rigged, it was a sham. I’m frankly embarrassed for my nation that this has happened.”
The sprawling legal saga stems from a 2011 judgment in Ecuador exactly where Chevron was purchased to pay $9.5bn in damages to folks, represented by Donziger, blighted by many years of polluted air and h2o allegedly brought about by the company’s oil drilling operations. Chevron has in no way paid this, proclaiming “shocking degrees of misconduct” by Donziger and the Ecuadorian judiciary.
Chevron has accused Donziger of bribing the decide in Ecuador and ghostwriting the final verdict, an accusation he strenuously denies. Even so, in 2016 a US decide, Lewis Kaplan, located that Donziger was included in racketeering exercise and granted Chevron seizure of the lawyer’s laptop computer and mobile phone. When Donziger appealed against this, he was strike with the contempt charges and placed beneath house arrest.
In an uncommon transfer, a personal regulation company that has previously accomplished operate for Chevron was employed to prosecute Donziger soon after federal governing administration prosecutors declined to take up the circumstance.
“I was not prosecuted in a good process, I didn’t have a jury and I believe Chevron is behind all of this,” Donziger reported.
Preska’s judgment explicitly denies the attorney has been the target of a conspiracy, having said that. “Contrary to Mr Donziger’s assertion that his conviction was ‘pre-ordained’, the court finds him responsible on just about every depend for one particular motive and one particular reason only: Mr Donziger did that with which he is charged. Interval,” she wrote.