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Chevron foe Donziger released from prison under COVID waiver

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Attorney Steven Donziger, who won a multi-billion dollar judgment against Chevron on behalf of Ecuadorian villagers, arrives for his criminal contempt trail at the Manhattan Federal Courthouse in the Manhattan borough of New York City, New York, U.S. May 10, 2021. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

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  • Will serve the balance of his contempt charge sentence from home
  • Donziger won $9.5 billion Ecuadorian judgment against Chevron, which Manhattan judge ruled was secured through bribery

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(Reuters) - Attorneys for environmental lawyer Steven Donziger said Thursday that he is serving the remainder of a six-month sentence for contempt of court at home under a pandemic-era early release program.

Donziger tweeted Thursday afternoon: "Danbury prison officials released me this morning to serve the rest of my sentence (136 days) at home."

Donziger's legal team had requested his release under the CARES (Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security) Act, said Martin Garbus, one of his lawyers.

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The Federal Bureau of Prisons did not immediately reply to a request for comment nor did it respond to a phone call.

Donziger began serving his sentence at the Danbury federal prison on Oct. 27. A prison staffer contacted by phone could not confirm his release.

The prison's website says it is operating under the strictest level of COVID modifications, including masking, screening and social distancing.

Donziger, who was disbarred in New York last year, was found guilty of criminal contempt in July including for failing to turn over his computer and other electronic devices in connection with his long-running legal battle with Chevron Corp over oil pollution in Ecuador.

In that case, a Manhattan judge in 2014 barred enforcement in the United States of a $9.5 billion judgment that Donziger won against Chevron in Ecuador, finding it was secured through bribery, fraud and extortion.

The Harvard Law School graduate has appealed his conviction and his sentence.

Prior to his imprisonment, Donziger spent about 800 days in home confinement to address concerns of flight risk.

The lead prosecutor in his case, private attorney Rita Glavin, declined to comment.

The case is United States v. Donziger, 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, No. 21-2486.

For United States: Rita Glavin of Glavin PLLC; Brian Maloney of Seward & Kissel

For Donziger: William Taylor of Zuckerman Spaeder; Martin Garbus of Offit Kurman; and Ronald Kuby

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Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

Sebastien Malo reports on environmental, climate and energy litigation. Reach him at sebastien.malo@thomsonreuters.com

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