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They can imprison Steven Donziger, but they cannot silence him

On the morning of Steven Donziger’s sentencing hearing, on October 1st, 2021, I spoke extensively with the human rights attorney about his extraordinary case. Donziger was sentenced to prison for 6 months — punishment for winning a $9 billion judgment against Chevron for destroying the Amazon with oil sludge. Denied bail, while awaiting his appeal, Donziger began his sentence on October 27th, 2021 at the federal prison in Danbury, CT. While he’s incarcerated, we will be posting excerpts from this interview. They can imprison Donziger, but they cannot silence him.

Stand with Steven:


Greg Palast: You could end up in a federal penitentiary for up to six months. How do you and your family feel about this?

Steven Donziger: We’re not happy about it. It’s scary, for me and my family — maybe more so for them than for me. I have a 15 year old son. But it’s untenable, the situation as is. I mean, I’ve been in house arrest now for two years and two months on a misdemeanor. No other person in US history has served even a day in jail for this crime. So it would be entirely inappropriate, in my opinion, for Judge Preska to put me in jail for even one day, much less six months, however…

Things have happened in this case that are very unusual, irregular, and I would say abusive, starting with the two year pretrial detention, denial of a jury, denial of a neutral judge. Judge Preska, for example, is a leader of the Federalist Society, to which Chevron is a major donor.

I’m being prosecuted, not by the government, but by a private law firm that has Chevron as a client. This is a corporate criminal prosecution, orchestrated by Chevron, financed by Chevron, carried out by a Chevron law firm, before a Chevron-linked judge. It’s that simple.

This isn’t a normal case. It’s irregular, and I would say it’s abusive, and I would say it’s corrupt. So, you know, how do I feel? Not great. I don’t trust the process I’ve been subjected to. I feel like I live in this sort of no man’s land in American jurisprudence where the rule of law does not apply to Steven Donziger, because of my success as a human rights advocate in holding Chevron accountable for massive oil pollution in the Ecuadorian Amazon. So that’s the state of play.

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Greg Palast (Rolling Stone, Guardian, BBC) is the author of The New York Times bestsellers, Armed Madhouse, Billionaires & Ballot Bandits and the book and documentary, The Best Democracy Money Can Buy.
His latest film is Vigilante: Georgia's Vote Suppression Hitman

Palast is currently working on a new documentary Long Knife, exposing the Koch Brothers' theft of Osage oil, to be released in 2024.

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