Steven Donziger, the environmental and human rights lawyer who won a $ 9.5 billion settlement against Chevron for oil spilled on native Amazon rainforest lands, surrendered to federal authorities on Wednesday to start a six-month prison sentence.

Mr Donziger was convicted in July of six counts of contempt of court for withholding evidence in a long and complex legal battle with Chevron, who claims Mr Donziger fabricated evidence in the 1990s to win a lawsuit he filed against the oil giant. on behalf of 30,000 indigenous peoples in Ecuador. The convictions led to Mr Donziger’s de-listing last year.

Late Wednesday afternoon, Mr Donziger visited federal prison in Danbury, Connecticut, where he will serve his six-month sentence. He had already spent more than 800 days in house arrest after the court raised concerns about the risk of absconding, his lawyer, Ronald L. Kuby said on Wednesday.

“After 100 pages of legal briefing, the appeals court today denied my release in 10 words,” Donziger said. said on Twitter on Tuesday. “This is not due process. It is not justice either.

“We will be fine,” he added.

Chevron representatives did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

On July 31, 2019, Judge Lewis A. Kaplan of the Manhattan U.S. District Court, a former corporate lawyer, attempted to charge Donziger with contempt of court. based on his 2014 refusals to give the court access to decades of client communications on devices like his phone and computer. That year, Justice Kaplan supported Chevron’s complaint in a 500-page decision finding that Mr. Donziger and his associates had engaged in conspiracy and criminal behavior by writing an environmental report used as crucial evidence and bribing a judge in Ecuador.

After the US District Attorney for the Southern District of New York declined to pursue the case, Judge Kaplan took the rare step of appointing a private law firm, Seward & Kissel, to sue Donziger on behalf of the US government , Mr. Kuby mentioned.

Seward & Kissel has represented numerous oil and gas companies over the years, including Chevron in 2018.

The offense of criminal contempt carries a maximum penalty of one year. If the sentence is more than six months for this type of charge, Mr Kuby said, an accused would get a jury trial. Even after multiple objections from Mr. Donziger, Judge Loretta A. Preska lowered the sentence to six months – it had been set a year earlier – and dismissed Mr. Donziger’s request for a jury trial.

In July, Judge Preska found Mr. Donziger guilty on all counts. On October 1, Mr. Donziger was sentenced to six months in prison, a day after asking the court to consider a opinion by independent United Nations experts who found his court-ordered home isolation for more than two years to be a violation of international human rights law.

Judge Preska agreed not to jail Mr. Donziger immediately, giving him the opportunity to appeal the conditions of his bail. In an Oct. 12 court order, Judge Preska said if Mr Donziger’s appeal failed, he would have to surrender within 24 hours of the decision.

In 1993, Mr. Donziger sued the Chevron Corporation for oil spills that had a detrimental effect on the Amazon region of Ecuador. Mr Donziger argued that Texaco, which was acquired by Chevron in 2001, crossed the Amazon, dumped oil in pristine rainforests and left behind a toxic mess.

At the time, Chevron said Mr. Donziger fabricated facts for his own purposes, accusing the company of pollution primarily caused by Petroecuador, the national oil company that was once a partner of Texaco and continues to produce oil in the region. region.

Chevron has long argued that a 1998 deal Texaco signed with Ecuador after a $ 40 million cleanup exempts it from liability. He argues that the Ecuadorian state oil company is responsible for much of the pollution of the oilfield Texaco left behind in the 1970s.


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