What’s more thoroughly trashed: Aaron Charney’s Biglaw career, or his computer hard drive? You be the judge.
Patricia Hurtado and Lindsay Fortado, of Bloomberg News, have filed an excellent report about yesterday’s court proceedings in the litigation between Aaron Charney and his erstwhile employer, Sullivan & Cromwell. Here’s an excerpt:
A former Sullivan & Cromwell lawyer who destroyed his home computer’s hard drive after being sued by the law firm must be questioned under oath about how and when he did it, a New York judge said.
The judge, Bernard Fried, ruled today after being told Aaron Charney, the lawyer, had computer professionals wipe the computer’s memory clean, took it home, smashed it with a hammer and threw it away. Charney’s attorney Michael Kennedy described the destruction of the computer’s hard drive to the judge.
Thanks to our time in the discovery salt mines, we know that computer forensic experts can pull off all sorts of miracles when it comes to data recovery. But in our non-expert opinion, it sounds like the Charney hard drive is history.
In this case, it’s not a matter of recovering a purportedly “deleted” file that still resides somewhere within the computer’s memory. Thanks to the hammer smashing and trashing, what’s needed here is a physical miracle, of the water-into-wine variety.
Another juicy tidbit from the Bloomberg News report: Charney was told by S&C, during settlement discussions, that they would “crush him like a bug” — delicious!!!
But bug-crushing is a tad cliched. Couldn’t the S&C lawyers have been more creative? Maybe they could have told Charney, “We will shred you into little bits, like a redlined draft merger agreement that has been superseded by a later version.”
More from Hurtado and Fortado — hey, we like the ring of that — after the jump.
Update (12:05 PM): Please note that we’ve appended a few additions and corrections to this post since it was originally published.
Not surprisingly, Charles Stillman, counsel to Sullivan & Cromwell, seized upon the destruction of the hard drive as cause for dismissing Charney’s suit:
[Stillman] argues Charney’s sex-discrimination suit against Sullivan & Cromwell should be dismissed because evidence was destroyed. Charney promised to preserve evidence in the case, Stillman said.
“A very serious thing happened,” Stillman said at the hearing in state Supreme Court in Manhattan. “I think the very processes of this court were flouted by Mr. Aaron Charney for his own purposes.”
Quibble with Bloomberg: We’d describe the lawsuit as a “sexual-orientation-discrimination” suit. Charney is alleging that he was discriminated against for being gay, not for being male. But query whether Eric Krautheimer might have asked a comely female associate to “bend over” as well.
Random aside: Do you know Eric M. Krautheimer? Would you be able to identify him in a photograph? If so, please email us (subject line: Eric Krautheimer).
During our most recent trip to New York, we took a photograph of a man in a restaurant — Cookshop, to be more precise — that we thought might be Krautheimer. But we’re not sure if it’s really him. Hence this request for your assistance.
Back to the Bloomberg report. Once again, Aaron Charney was a no-show at 60 Centre Street:
Kennedy said Charney, who wasn’t in the courtroom, thought Sullivan & Cromwell lawyers wanted him to destroy the hard drive after settlement talks broke down Jan. 31. He said Gandolfo DiBlasi, a partner at the firm, “ranted” at Charney.
Oooh, interesting! Now we know why Vince DiBlasi was at the earlier hearing (which some of you wondered about). It sounds like DiBlasi is playing the role of in-house heavy in dealing with Charney.
“He was so terrified, he would have done virtually anything” Kennedy said. The attorney said Charney, a fourth-year lawyer, was told “Sullivan & Cromwell is invincible.” Charney destroyed the hard drive after being told, “We’ll crush you like a bug,” Kennedy said, quoting his client.
For what it’s worth, S&C denies Charney’s claim of a rant by Vince DiBlasi:
“We categorically deny Kennedy’s assertions of the meeting and point out that he wasn’t at the meeting where these statements were allegedly made,” spokesman Paul Caminiti said.
Huh? DiBlasi wasn’t even at that meeting? Maybe Aaron Charney should have shown up to the hearing, so he could have fielded any factual inquiries, and corrected any factual errors by his counsel, on the spot.
Correction: No, Caminiti was saying that KENNEDY wasn’t at the meeting — not DiBlasi.
Charney certainly wasn’t volunteering much information in his written submissions to the Court. His affidavit about his hard drive was kinda lame:
Fried earlier this month said Charney had to submit an affidavit on how the computer was wiped clean. Charney provided a two-sentence memo Feb. 13 saying, “I have destroyed the hard drive to my home computer,” without giving details.
Two sentences? That’s a slap in the judicial face. Not surprisingly, Justice Fried demanded further details from Michael Kennedy:
“He took a hammer and destroyed the hard drive” when he went home, Kennedy said. “He beat it and beat it and beat it and threw it in the garbage.”
So Aaron “beat it and beat it and beat it and threw it in the garbage.” Is it just us, or does this sound kinda hot?
As it turns out, Aaron Charney can’t avoid 60 Centre Street forever. His presence WILL be required at the next hearing:
Fried said Charney is to be questioned under oath within 10 days on “the issue of the destruction of the hard drive.’”
The cases are Charney v. Sullivan & Cromwell, 100625/2007, and Sullivan & Cromwell LLP v. Charney, 600333/2007, both New York Supreme Court, New York County (Manhattan).
How exciting! This may require us to make another trip up to NYC. Good stuff!
Correction: Charney will be questioned under oath, but in a deposition — NOT at a hearing in open court. So the fireworks will not be open to the public. Darn!
Bloomberg News (link to individual story unavailable).