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Donziger enlists defense pro William Taylor for criminal appeal

3 minute read

REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton

  • Zuckerman Spaeder partner contesting Steven Donziger's conviction and sentence
  • Taylor known for defending ex-IMF chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn
  • Recent clients include Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou

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(Reuters) - Disbarred lawyer Steven Donziger, whose decades-long legal battle with Chevron Corp over rainforest pollution in Ecuador led to his own criminal contempt prosecution in New York, has enlisted a new lawyer to try to undo his conviction and prison sentence.

William Taylor, a founding partner at national law firm Zuckerman Spaeder, on Monday filed a notice that he will ask the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to review Donziger's July conviction and sentencing last week. U.S. District Judge Loretta Preska in Manhattan sentenced Donziger to six month behind bars on Friday for defying court orders.

Taylor declined to comment. He will work alongside Donziger lawyer Martin Garbus of Offit Kurman. Rita Glavin, a special prosecutor in the case, declined to comment.

Taylor has taken many high-profile cases over the years. His most recent clients include Huawei chief financial officer Meng Wanzhou, who reached a deferred prosecution agreement with U.S. prosecutors last month over bank and wire fraud charges, and social media persona "Roaring Kitty," whose online posts helped spark January's trading frenzy in GameStop Corp.

The Washington, D.C., lawyer represented Dominique Strauss-Kahn, the former International Monetary Fund chief who was accused of sexually assaulting a New York hotel maid in 2011 before the criminal charges were dropped.

He also represented former Obama White House counsel and ex-Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom partner Gregory Craig, who was found not guilty in 2019 of lying about work he performed for Ukraine in a case that grew out of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation.

Though many of Donziger's attorneys have represented him pro bono, his former lead lawyer Andrew Frisch sued him last year for non-payment. Taylor did not respond to a question asking about his decision to represent Donziger and how he will be paid.

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.

His 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 remains under home confinement. Preska ordered him to begin his sentence unless he files a motion for release pending appeal by Friday that requests expedited consideration, said Ronald Kuby, another lawyer for Donziger.

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

Read more:

Lawyer who sued Chevron sentenced to six months in contempt case

Disbarred Chevron foe Donziger pleads for time served sentence

Special prosecutor: 'no specific recommendation' on Donziger sentence

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

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