A federal judge has sentenced human rights attorney Steven Donziger to six months in prison for criminal contempt in relation to a $9 billion judgment he helped win against Chevron for pollution left behind in the Ecuadorian Amazon.
Over the years, Donziger showed an “astonishing disrespect for the law and rule of the court,” U.S. District Court Judge Loretta Preska said during a sentencing hearing held Friday in Manhattan.
“Only the proverbial two by four between the eyes will instill in him any respect for the law,” the judge added.
Preska denied Donziger’s request for post-sentencing bail pending his conviction appeal, but has allowed him to remain on house arrest for one week, while his legal team appeals her bail denial. If the bail appeal is denied, Donziger will await the results of his conviction appeal behind bars.
Donziger was found guilty by Preska in July on six counts of criminal contempt stemming from his work with the Indigenous and small farming communities in Ecuador, which are still dealing with oil pollution.
The 2011 Ecuadorian judgement was upheld by all levels of that country’s judiciary, however, Chevron has long-maintained the award was won through fraud and corruption. US District court judge Lewis A. Kaplan in 2014 agreed and banned Donziger from profiting from collection of the award.
Chevron later suspected Donziger was violating that ban and asked Kaplan to investigate. The judge ordered Donziger to comply with several post-judgement discovery orders, including the demand that he hand over his computer and cell phone to the court, along with any communications related to the case.
Donziger argued that the request violated attorney-client privilege and potentially endangered the Ecuadorian plaintiffs, and refused to hand over his devices pending an appeal of the order. Chevron then requested Kaplan charge Donziger with civil …