Tag Archives: Steven Donziger

Legal Team for Defendants in Chevron’s RICO Suit File Motion to Strike Testimony of Aberto Guerra, Company’s Star Witness

Legal Team for Defendants in Chevron’s RICO Suit File Motion to Strike Testimony of Aberto Guerra, Company’s Star Witness

[NEW YORK, NY]  Today, the legal team for Steven Donziger and the Ecuadorian Defendants in Chevron’s RICO suit filed a motion to strike the testimony of the company’s star witness, Alberto Guerra, on grounds that Chevron’s compensation for his testimony is tantamount to a bribe, not unlike the dozens Guerra admitted on the stand to making and taking during his years as a corrupt lawyer and judge in Ecuador.

The motion details how Chevron’s monetary and non-monetary compensation package clearly runs afoul of the federal Anti-Gratuity statute, as well as the Rules of Professional Conduct of New York, has provided an overwhelming incentive to lie and exaggerate in order to gain a better bargaining position with Chevron, as he testified he did repeatedly in court last week.

The motion notes the view of prominent legal scholar and law professor Erwin Chemerinsky in a sworn declaration for the Defendants 

“if a party or its counsel were permitted to pay a testifying witness for physical evidence, beyond the reasonable value of that evidence, and to pay the witness a salary in exchange for an agreement to testify, there would be little left of the rule against compensating fact witnesses.”

We encourage you to read the motion in its entirety as it also highlights the admitted lies, the contradictions, and the suspect assertions in Guerra’s testimony, as well as the total lack of anything approaching corroborating evidence for his explosive allegations of ghostwriting and bribery.

Click here to read the motion [PDF document] & see below for additional comments.

Comment of Chris Gowen, spokesperson for Steven Donziger, and Professor of Legal Ethics at American University, Washington College of Law »

“The Chevron payments to Guerra constitute outright bribes that violate both criminal laws and the ethical rules governing the legal profession. As a practicing trial attorney, I know that if I ever put a witness like Mr. Guerra on the stand, the state bar would have every right to revoke my license to practice law.”

Comment of Han Shan, spokesperson for the Ecuadorian RICO Defendants »

“Guerra and his obsequious storytelling seem to Chevron a magic bullet to evade accountability for the destruction and suffering it has caused in Ecuador. But it won’t work; the District Court in New York cannot act as an appellate court to the Ecuadorian judiciary, and deny the communities of the Amazon the court victory they fought for and won.”

Chevron Withdraws Key Element in RICO Lawsuit Against Ecuadorian Pollution Victims & Their US Advocates

[NEW YORK, NY]  With the first week of trial in Chevron’s RICO case over, it is becoming clear that the oil giant is facing significant hurdles as it attempts to salvage a verdict that will allow it to block international efforts to enforce the $19 billion Ecuador judgment.

After the first four witnesses, several issues have come into sharp focus. First, Chevron is willing to give up major portions of its RICO claims to avoid compelling evidence of its environmental pollution and corrupt activities in Ecuador from coming out in court.

At the same time, Judge Lewis A. Kaplan is doing everything he can to assist the oil giant’s case. Kaplan has blocked most lines of questioning about environmental contamination, blocked evidence of Chevron’s surveillance of Donziger, granted Chevron a trial preparation room five times the size of that used by Donziger and Ecuadorian defendants Hugo Camacho and Javier Piaguaje, and most notably, has twice taken over the questioning of Chevron witnesses.

“I don’t think there’s a lawyer in the world who would guess that this is a RICO case had they sat through the first week of trial,” said Christopher Gowen, the spokesman for Donziger. “Chevron clearly wants to retry the Ecuador case that it lost in its preferred court”.

Gowen said Chevron’s case rests largely on a veritable parade of witnesses “who seem to personally dislike Steven Donziger” but have little information relevant to the legal claims in the case. “Chevron will continue to use this proceeding to try to destroy Donziger’s reputation by distorting facts about him, which seems to be central to their strategy,” he added.

The most stunning development occurred the first day when Chevron dropped a key predicate RICO act alleging that Donziger and his colleagues pressed for prosecutors in Ecuador to file “bogus” criminal charges against Ricardo Reis Veiga, a top Chevron lawyer. Just as lawyers were about to confront Reis Veiga with evidence that the charges were based on scientific proof that he designed and supervised a fraudulent remediation, Chevron agreed to drop that issue.

That move “completely validates everything Steven Donziger has been saying about this issue for years.” said Gowen. “It was manufactured by Chevron to put pressure on Donziger and harm his reputation, and it was false.”

“We were prepared to prove that Veiga orchestrated a major fraud in Ecuador to try to get Chevron out of its huge liability, and that the criminal charges against him had a valid basis,” Gowen continued. “You may draw your own conclusions about why Chevron dropped this claim.”

Another of Chevron’s key witnesses, a former technical consultant for the rainforest communities named David Russell’s written testimony, authored by Chevron’s lawyers, stated that Donziger pressured him to put out an inflated damages estimate in 2003 to pressure the company into a settlement. Curiously, Mr. Russell had a much different tone during a 2003 interview with The Wall Street Journal where, in his own words, he called the Ecuadorian contamination “larger than the Chernobyl disaster”.

Under cross-examination on the stand, Russell testified that he spent days putting together the assessment based on assumptions then available from limited data, and did so with no interference from Donziger.

Whether the thousands of dollars Mr. Russell has made from Chevron for his “testimony prep” influenced his testimony is rather obvious. Russell even admitted that Chevron lawyers at Gibson Dunn & Crutcher wrote his testimony for him in the first person.

Chevron scientist Sara McMillen was caught having to admit that the company’s technical experts were told to only look for “clean” soil samples during the judicial inspections. Donziger has long accused Chevron of engaging in junk science to defraud Ecuador’s court. (For a copy of his own claims against Chevron that Judge Kaplan would not let go forward, see here).

McMillen also conceded that Chevron called its own paid experts “independent” – the exact same term used by Donziger and his colleagues that Chevron claims was inappropriate.

“Chevron’s witnesses have affirmed what the victims of Chevron’s contamination have known all too well for decades – that a huge area where Chevron operated is horrifically polluted,” said Han Shan, spokesperson for the Ecuadorians named in Chevron’s RICO suit. “Chevron’s attempts to run from this basic truth adds insult to injury for thousands of people who continue to suffer the impacts of the company’s reckless conduct.”

Chevron’s RICO has three main problems »

First, the main activity in the case took place outside the U.S. in Ecuador, while the statute only applies to acts in the country. Second, now that Chevron has dropped money damages claims to avoid a jury, there is no equitable relief remedy available (such as an injunction blocking enforcement). Third, and most notably, Mr. Donziger did not commit a “predicate act” as clearly required by the RICO Statute, according to Gowen.

“Chevron figured out how to avoid a jury because the company knew full well New Yorkers would have seen through its charade,” he added.

» The Sparrow Project was grateful to be able to assist the Ecuadorian pollution victims in securing favorable media coverage on Huffpost Live [HERE & HERE], as well as Democracy Now! and Breaking the Set in hopes to juxtapose much of the business-centric articles like this one in Bloomberg Businessweek.

Activists Protest Tuesday as Trial Opens in Chevron RICO Lawsuit Against Ecuadorian Pollution Victims & Their US Advocates

Activists Protest Tuesday as Trial Opens in Chevron RICO Lawsuit Against Ecuadorian Pollution Victims & Their US Advocates

[NEW YORK, NY]  On Tuesday, Ecuadorean villagers from the Amazon rainforest region ravaged by Chevron’s oil contamination will join supporters for a large rally in Foley Square across from the courthouse where a trial will open in the California-based oil giant’s retaliatory R.I.C.O. (Racketeer Influenced & Corrupt Organization Act) lawsuit against the Ecuadorians and their U.S.-based legal advocates.

The Ecuadorians are representing 30,000 plaintiffs who won a landmark judgment against Chevron in an Ecuadorian court in 2011, wherein the company was ordered to pay more than $18 billion towards the cleanup of widespread contamination, as well as compensatory and punitive damages. The case, holding Chevron accountable for toxic dumping by its predecessor company, Texaco, has been upheld by appellate courts in Ecuador.

Nearly 20 years since the case was filed in 1993, Chevron refuses to pay for a cleanup, and is waging a scorched-earth legal, PR, and lobbying campaign to crush its victims and their advocates and supporters. The oil giant stripped its assets from the country, forcing the Ecuadorians to pursue enforcement of the judgment in countries where the Chevron still maintains assets. Chevron’s use of the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organization Act when filing suit against the Ecuadorian victims [.pdf ] and their advocates is the latest chapter in their attempts to evade accountability and repress those trying to hold the company to task.

“This trial is merely Chevron’s latest cynical ploy to evade accountability for its crimes in Ecuador,” said Paul Paz y Miño of Amazon Watch. “Chevron’s legacy in the Amazon has caused enough environmental ruin and human suffering already; it’s time the company to pay for a cleanup, rather than for more abusive efforts to run from its responsibility.”

The Foley Square protest will feature villagers from the Ecuadorean Amazon living amidst hundreds of Chevron’s abandoned toxic waste pits that litter the region. They will be displaying bottles of water polluted by Chevron oil operations, as well as images of friends, family, and community members who have died or suffered cancer and similar illnesses from prolonged exposure to petroleum wastewater. The rally is being organized by members of New York’s Ecuadorean community, along with human rights supporters and environmental activists, who will be supporting them with a massive ‘Lady Justice’ figure and other visually arresting props.

Forty-seven ‘named plaintiffs’—all of them indigenous rainforest residents and rural villagers—who represent the tens of thousands of affected people have been named in Chevron’s lawsuit, which alleges that their previous claim and subsequent judgement are a conspiracy to extort the company. Two of the Ecuadorean villagers have accepted personal jurisdiction in the case in order to fight the allegations. Fearing a public backlash for suing victims of its pollution, Chevron has focused its smear campaign on New York-based human rights attorney Steven Donziger, who has advised the Ecuadorians in their efforts since first visiting the contaminated region in 1993.

“I lost two children to Texaco’s pollution and the company now calls me a criminal for daring to demand justice,” said Emergildo Criollo, a leader of the Cofan indigenous tribe in whose ancestral lands the oil company first explored for oil in 1964. Texaco operated in Ecuador until 1992, and Chevron absorbed the company in 2001, assuming all of its predecessor’s assets and liabilities.

“Since the company arrived, our culture has been decimated, our children poisoned, our rainforest ruined, and Chevron dares to call us criminals?” continued Criollo.

The Ecuadorians and their supporters have called for an end to Chevron’s retaliatory lawsuit, and are calling this latest effort a “rigged show trial” before a federal judge, Lewis A. Kaplan, who has displayed outright hostility to the Ecuadorians’ legal efforts to demand a cleanup. Judge Kaplan has also made repeated disparaging comments, on the record, about Ecuador’s judicial system. Should Chevron win their case in front of Kaplan, an injunction would be put in place barring Steven Donziger from attempting to enforce the Ecuadorean judgment in a U.S. court and from collecting money from the judgement in any other venue.

Chevron has admitted to dumping nearly 16 billion gallons of toxic wastewater—the byproduct of oil drilling and pumping—into rivers and streams relied upon by thousands of people for drinking, bathing, and subsistence. The company also abandoned hundreds of unlined, open waste pits filled with crude, sludge, and oil drilling chemicals throughout the inhabited rainforest region. In other countries at the same time as it was operating with no environmental controls in Ecuador, the company re-injected wastewater, and used easily-deployed technology to deal with toxic byproducts of its oil drilling.

Multiple independent health studies have shown an epidemic of oil-related birth defects, cancers, and other illness. It is estimated that the contamination has directly led to at least 1,400 deaths in the region.

To learn more about the campaign to hold Chevron accountable visit http://chevrontoxico.com to schedule an interview with a member of Steven Donziger’s legal team or one of the Ecuadorian victims please email andy@sparrowmedia.net