Law360 (January 11, 2021, 7:51 PM EST) -- A New York federal judge has "reluctantly" granted Chevron foe Steven Donziger's bid to postpone his bench trial from mid-January to May, while also denying Donziger's attempt to trim the suit.
On Sunday, U.S. District Judge Loretta Preska allowed the suit to be postponed once more, about 600 days after Donziger's home confinement began.
Sunday's postponement arrives after Donziger's objections to a remote trial, which special prosecutor Rita Glavin consented to last week.
Originally scheduled for September, Donziger's trial has been delayed several times after his then-counsel refused to participate in an in-person trial during the COVID19 pandemic, among other twists and turns last fall.
"In light of this history, but cognizant of the fact that it is both Mr. Donziger (who remains in home confinement) and the Government who seek yet another adjournment of the trial date — this time for another 111 days, no less — the Court reluctantly grants the request of Mr. Donziger and the Government to adjourn the trial date," the order said.
Donziger faces misdemeanor charges that he disobeyed court orders in Chevron's underlying civil suit against Donziger over a $9 billion judgment involving environmental damage in Ecuador. He has been under house arrest in Manhattan since August 2019 on the misdemeanor charges and has said no other federal misdemeanor defendant without a criminal record had ever faced home confinement with electronic monitoring.
He was recently denied release from home confinement, with Judge Preska insisting that he is a flight risk.
The judge in the civil case who instituted the contempt charges, U.S. District Judge Lewis Kaplan, found in 2014 after a civil bench trial that Donziger obtained the judgment against Chevron through bribery and fraud. Donziger, who was disbarred in New York state against the recommendation of a referee, denies this. Judge Kaplan assigned the criminal case to Judge Preska.
In March 2019, Judge Kaplan issued an order to create a protocol to oversee the collection, imaging and examination of Donziger's devices. The order required Donziger to provide a list of his devices to a forensic expert and surrender the devices to the expert for imaging. Donziger did not follow either according to the suit, and would not do so until his "due process rights were respected."
On Sunday, Judge Preska denied Donziger's bid to trim three counts from the suit. The counts Donziger sought to excuse from the suit included turning over his passport along with his electronic devices.
"It's regrettable that the global pandemic and megadeaths has delayed Chevron's attempts to criminalize Steven Donziger, but they'll get to it in May," Donziger's attorney Ronald L. Kuby said.
Counsel for the prosecution declined to comment.
The prosecution is represented by Rita Glavin of Seward & Kissel LLP.
Donziger is represented by Ron Kuby, Rhiya Trivedi and Lauren Regan.
The case is U.S. v. Donziger, case number 1:19-cr-00561, in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York.
--Additional reporting by Craig Clough and Cara Salvatore. Editing by Peter Rozovsky.
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