Ex-law firm partner who brought bias case charged with cyberstalking

K&L Gates LLP offices in Manhattan, New York City, REUTERS/Andrew Kelly
  • Prosecutors said former K&L Gates partner Willie Dennis harassed and threatened ex-colleagues
  • Dennis accused the firm of discrimination in 2020 lawsuit

(Reuters) - A former partner at K&L Gates who sued the law firm for racial discrimination and retaliation was arrested and charged Friday with cyberstalking other lawyers there.

Federal prosecutors in Manhattan said Willie Dennis, 59, sent thousands of harassing, threatening, and intimidating emails and text messages to partners and others at the firm as part of a cyberstalking campaign that began in 2018.

The New York resident, who is Black, was indicted on four counts of cyberstalking. Neil Kelly, a public defender assigned to Dennis' case, did not respond to a request for comment.

K&L Gates in a statement said his "association with our firm terminated two and a half years ago."

The charges came a year after Dennis filed a federal lawsuit in Manhattan alleging he was wrongly fired in May 2019 for raising concerns about how K&L Gates allegedly discriminated against him and others on the basis of their race and gender.

Dennis, who represented himself, claimed that Black attorneys at K&L Gates have fewer opportunities, are paid less and are regularly denied origination credit. He alleged that after firing him the firm harassed him through private investigators and police officers.

K&L Gates has denied Dennis' bias allegations in public statements and in court filings, accusing him of perpetuating a "nearly two-year campaign of relentless harassment targeting the firm and its partners."

Days after Dennis sued K&L Gates, the firm asked a Washington, D.C., superior court judge to compel him to enter arbitration, citing a provision in the partnership agreement he signed.

A judge granted that motion in February, and a federal judge put his lawsuit on hold in March pending the outcome of those proceedings. The arbitration was still pending as of September, according to a court filing.

The case is U.S. v. Dennis, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York, No. 20-cr-00623.

For the United States: Sarah Kushner of the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Southern District of New York

For Dennis: Neil Kelly of the Federal Defenders of New York

Read more:

Judge halts ex-K&L Gates partner's bias lawsuit pending arbitration

(This story has been updated with comment from K&L Gates.)

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Nate Raymond reports on the federal judiciary and litigation. He can be reached at nate.raymond@thomsonreuters.com.