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Disbarred Chevron foe Donziger pleads for time served sentence

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Attorney Steven Donziger, who won a multi-billion dollar judgment against Chevron on behalf of Ecuadorian villagers, speaks to supporters with Singer Roger Waters and actor Susan Sarandon, as he 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

  • Donziger's near-800 days in home confinement is 'enough' -lawyer
  • Sentencing for contempt finding set for Oct. 1

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(Reuters) - Disbarred lawyer Steven Donziger, who was found guilty of criminal contempt after spending more than two decades trying to hold Chevron Corp liable for rainforest pollution in Ecuador, has asked a Manhattan federal court to sentence him to time served.

In a Tuesday filing, his lawyers told Senior U.S. District Judge Loretta Preska that after nearly 800 days of confinement at home since he was charged in 2019, "Donziger has been punished enough."

A special prosecutor in his case, Rita Glavin of Glavin PLLC, declined to comment. Donziger faces a maximum of six months imprisonment or a $5,000 fine, Glavin said last month in a filing.

Preska found Donziger guilty of criminal contempt in July after a May bench trial. Donziger, who was disbarred in New York last year, was charged in August 2019 with failing to turn over his computer, phones and other electronic devices, among other conduct. The New York City resident has been in home detention since August 2019 to address concerns of flight risk.

The contempt case stems from post-judgment orders in a civil case in which a Manhattan judge in 2014 barred enforcement in the United States of a $9.5 billion judgment against Chevron Corp that Donziger had won in an Ecuadorian court. The judge said the Ecuadorian judgment had been secured through bribery, fraud and extortion.

Donziger's lawyer, Ronald Kuby, wrote in Tuesday's filing that his client's case had become "a singular symbol of injustice in society" due to the "extraordinary" step of hiring private lawyers to carry out the prosecution after the Southern District of New York declined to prosecute him in 2019.

"The public has taken notice," Kuby wrote, citing a February letter by human rights and environmental watchdogs, including Amnesty International USA. In the letter, the groups expressed their concern over "a disproportionate interference with Steven Donziger's right to liberty."

Donziger's time in home confinement grew with repeated postponements of his trial due to the coronavirus pandemic and issues with his legal representation.

Kuby wrote that Donziger's sentencing, set for Oct. 1, will represent the "culmination" of what he called "Chevron's decades-long efforts to demonize" him. Chevron spokesperson Jim Craig declined to comment.

Glavin told Preska last month in her sentencing submission that she deferred to the court on the appropriate sentence to impose on him. She wrote that the pre-trial home detention does not constitute "official detention."

The case is United States v. Donziger, U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, No. 1:19-cr-00561.

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

For Donziger: Martin Garbus of Offit Kurman and Ronald Kuby

Read more:

Judge grants Donziger's request to teleconference Oct. sentencing

Special prosecutor: 'no specific recommendation' on Donziger sentence

Lawyer who sued Chevron over Ecuador pollution found guilty of contempt

Donziger's bid for new trial doesn't address guilt, says special prosecutor

Lawyer who sued Chevron over Ecuador pollution faces N.Y. contempt trial

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

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