I think it definitely does. Kaplan tried to seize Donziger's electronics so that the injunction could be enforced, and it was Donzgier's refusal to comply with this that led to the contempt sentence; the injunction manifested itself because, in part, of the bribery finding. Even if Kaplan suggests that the bribery finding was not essential to the general verdict, I cannot help but think that the alleged bribe was a significant catalyzer for the general injunction verdict.
I personally find it interesting how much Kaplan is willing to find Guerra as credible, despite perjury, admittance of a criminal history, past bribery, etc., but finds Donziger's and Zambrano's testimonies, respectively, to be noncredible. Zambrano is despised of in only a paragraph, yet Kaplan painfully tries to show Guerra's testimony to be worth something. Interesting juxtaposition there
Although I remain not entirely convinced that eliminating the bribery finding would have changed the underlying conviction, I do think that the bribery finding will prejudice Donzinger at sentencing. I would anticipate that a judge would be particularly inflamed by this “finding” of bribery because it will feel personally offensive to the court. Allowing the sentencing judge to consider such unsubstantiated conduct is unjust, but it is common—and even explicitly allowed for—in the federal criminal system. Federal judges have extremely wide latitude in what conduct they can consider to justify a higher sentence, even one that goes above the guidelines. For criminal defendants, this often means that unsubstantiated allegations, arrests, or charges that were dismissed without any conviction can come back to haunt them and add years to their prison sentences. In that context, I am glad that we are talking about the injustice of imprisoning people for conduct that fell short of conviction, and I hope that our anger at this injustice would also extend beyond one prominent Harvard Law alumnus’ struggle.
I agree with Bremervoord and Cintra. Judge Kaplan’s bribery finding marked a watershed in Donziger’s legal woes – it is the innermost Matryoshka doll that spawned Kaplan’s injunction against the Ecuadorian judgment, Kaplan’s order to Donziger to share his electronic devices with Chevron, Kaplan’s unprecedented appointment of two Special Prosecutors, Preska’s home-detention ruling and seizure of Donziger’s passport, and, ultimately, Preska’s contempt conviction. While Preska’s sentence next month will likely pale in comparison to the 787 days of Donziger’s ongoing home confinement, it will be a pyrrhic victory, despite Donziger’s extraordinary efforts to protect indigenous Ecuadorians. Lost in the shuffle of both an attorney’s disbarment and two conflicted federal judges is this: both Kaplan’s bribery finding and Preska’s contempt conviction work in tandem to obscure Chevron’s ecocide in the Amazon. See United States v. Donziger, No. 19-CR-561, 2021 WL 3141893, *1 (S.D.N.Y. Jul. 26, 2021) (finding that Donziger’s alleged bribery was “wholly unconcerned with the debate regarding any responsibility Chevron might bear” for its polluting of the Lago Agrio region).