The Chevron RICO trial grinds on

A couple of weeks ago we brought you up to date on the new Autumn blockbuster, Chevron’s Revenge: The Good Guys Strike Back. The huge energy company (and major American employer, let’s not forget) was taking New York lawyer Steven Donziger and his pals who had been attempting to pick their pockets to court for a RICO trial. The case has been proceeding in a stately fashion since then, with more witnesses appearing to describe the extremely shady events which led to the original judgement against Chevron.

As CNN reports, this week brought a special surprise as the judge in the Ecuador trial was brought to the stand to explain his original judgement. To put it mildly, things didn’t go well for Team Donziger.

Disastrous day for the Lago Agrio plaintiffs in Chevron trial

In remarkable testimony Tuesday in federal court in Manhattan, the former Ecuadorian judge who signed a $19 billion environmental judgment against Chevron in 2011 seemed startlingly unfamiliar with the contents of the opinion he claims to have authored. He was unable to account for key data, reasoning, case citations, and terms he used in it.

The strikingly poor performance of the judge, Nicolás Zambrano Lozada, appeared to bolster Chevron’s contention that the $19 billion judgment in the environmental case, commenced in Lago Agrio, Ecuador in 2003, was not written by Zambrano at all, but rather by the plaintiffs lawyers themselves, who, Chevron maintains, won that opportunity by agreeing to pay Zambrano $500,000 from out of any eventual recovery. Zambrano maintains that he wrote the ruling without any assistance from anyone.

Zambrano’s testimony came in a civil case Chevron (CVX) filed in Manhattan in February 2011 against U.S. lawyer Steven Donziger and other leaders of the Ecuadorian litigation. In that suit, brought under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO), Chevron accuses the Lago Agrio plaintiffs team of having won the huge Ecuadorian judgment through bribery, extortion, fraud, witness tampering, obstruction of justice, and money laundering.

CNN has, in the past, seemed to try to paint something of a kindly face on the Ecuador team’s case, or at least give them the benefit of the doubt for the claims they brought. This time, however, it seemed to be even a bit much for them. The judge is quoted answering a number of questions put to him about the contents of the judgement he supposedly authored. Pretty much all of them being – and occasionally end – with, “I don’t recall.”

On another occasion, when asked to identify something as basic as, “the statistical data of the highest importance” the judge appeared to offer what CNN described as, “a guess.” Unfortunately, the guess was wrong, bringing an even more farcical tone to the proceedings. And we need to keep in mind that they’re talking to him about something from 2011. The defense has had two full years to prepare the guy for this questioning and he still couldn’t get his ducks in a row to spit out a few good answers.

The trial will drag on for a while longer, but we’ll keep you up to date on developments as we move toward what will hopefully be a dose of actual justice. Thus far it’s looking pretty bad for the pickpocket brigade.

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