Law360 (January 7, 2021, 10:52 PM EST) -- In light of Chevron foe Steven Donziger's objections to a remote trial, the special prosecutor in his New York federal contempt case said Thursday she would consent to a May postponement.
Manhattan's chief federal judge recently encouraged remote proceedings for all bench trials through mid-February because of the coronavirus pandemic, and Donziger is currently set for a bench trial Jan. 19. He faces misdemeanor charges he disobeyed court orders in Chevron's underlying civil suit against Donziger over a $9 billion Ecuador environmental judgment.
Special prosecutor Rita Glavin told U.S. District Judge Loretta Preska in a letter Thursday that Donziger's side "objects to conducting the trial remotely."
Glavin said she's ready for trial but would be amenable to a May 10 trial date, "if the court determines that an adjournment of trial is appropriate and that date is acceptable to the court."
Judge Preska, who will make the ultimate decision, had asked the parties Tuesday to weigh in on Chief Judge Colleen McMahon's order that day halting all jury trials through Feb. 12 and encouraging bench trials, as well as hearings with witnesses, to be "conducted remotely if at all possible."
Donziger's trial had been scheduled for September but was delayed multiple times after his then-counsel refused to participate in an in-person trial during the pandemic, among many other twists and turns over the fall.
Glavin did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
In another development Thursday, Donziger's side filed papers in further support of an already pending motion to dismiss some counts.
Donziger was recently denied release from home confinement, with Judge Preska insisting he's a flight risk.
Donziger 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 has ever faced the same confinement.
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 recently disbarred in New York state against the recommendation of a referee, denies this. Judge Kaplan assigned the criminal case to Judge Preska.
In an email, Donziger said he "cannot get a fair trial no matter what the date without a jury of my peers and an unbiased judge."
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.
--Editing by Jill Coffey.
For a reprint of this article, please contact email@example.com.