Global Law Firm Partner Indicted For Cyberstalking Fellow Law Partners

Global Law Firm Partner Indicted For Cyberstalking Fellow Law Partners

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Ivy League graduate Willie Dennis worked at the international law firm K&L Gates for almost 20 years as a partner in midtown Manhattan. The Gates law firm was founded in 1883 and has almost two thousand lawyers with offices located throughout the world. Dennis practiced corporate law for over 30 years in New York City working at top law firms Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld LLP and Thelen Reid and Priest and represented Fortune 500 companies including Microsoft, Goldman Sachs, DuPont, MetLife, CBRE, American Express, Tyco, Toys-R-Us, and Darden Restaurant.

In 2020 Dennis sued the Gates law firm and claimed he was forced out due to the discriminatory culture at Gates against African American lawyers. Dennis claimed in his lawsuit that “African American attorneys faced minimal career opportunities, limited training and development opportunities, a denial of access to substantive and highprofile legal work, and significant roadblocks to partnership.” Dennis alleged that African American attorneys were discouraged from working on lucrative work for Gates’ client Microsoft. Dennis claimed that Firm management told him “Black lawyers don’t fit in, and Asian lawyers are preferred” and “White associates understand the Microsoft contracts better than the Black attorneys.” Dennis also alleged that he was shut out of the Corporate Counsel Women of Color diversity bar association that he started at the Firm and ran for 14 years. Dennis claimed that this bar association brought the Firm multi-million dollars in revenues by connecting the Firm with prominent in-house decision-making lawyers who awarded business to law firms that valued and championed diversity. Dennis claimed that he was replaced by Defendant Pallavi Wahi, a South Asian partner, as the point person for the diversity bar association, and that when he complained about being replaced, Pallavi Wahi responded, “Black lawyer diversity is not what the Firm is interested in. The Firm is interested in Asian diversity.” Wahi became the diversity “face” of the Firm, would collect all the contacts at the conference for business generation and then funneled all those contacts back to White partners. Wahi and the White partners made multi-million dollars in fees from these clients, while Dennis was completely shut out and undercompensated.

Dennis alleged in his civil complaint that he was terminated because he blew the whistle on sexual harassment practices at Gates. Dennis alleged: “It was known Firm-wide that some of the male partners on the Executive Management Committee would date women lawyers in the Firm and then make determinations about their compensation.” In order to stop firm managers from sexually harassing women lawyers Dennis “sent over 300 partners in the Firm an email addressing the issue suggesting new policies and procedures for preventing similar behavior in the future.” As a result of Dennis’ e-mail, Dennis was notified that the Firm was barring his access to the office and suspending his access to emails and secretarial services. Dennis was expelled from the ranks of partner on the “pretexual” grounds that he was involved in divorce proceedings. The partnership agreement allowed the Gates law firm to expel a partner who got served with a divorce. Dennis claimed that he was the first partner ever expelled from the Gates law firm since it was founded in 1883.

Dennis filed paperwork in his civil case claiming that the Gates law firm hired private investigators to follow him around, hack into his electronic devices and eavesdrop on his communications. Dennis indicated that he went so far as to contact the United States District Attorney’s Office and file a complaint against Gates for harassment. The US Attorney did not act on Dennis’ harassment complaint. Shortly therafter Dennis was indicted by the US Attorney and charged with cyberstalking and alleged that Dennis “engaged in a campaign of harassment, intimidation, and threats against multiple individuals, including other partners, who worked at the Firm. As part of that campaign, Dennis sent the victims thousands of harassing, threatening, and intimidating emails and text messages.” Dennis was busted in the Dominican Republic and brought to New York and detained by Federal marshals. Dennis was released from prison and allowed to move to Florida and live with his elderly parents on home confinement. Dennis’ apartment in Harlem was going through reconstruction and uninhabitable. Dennis can only leave his parents’ home in order to take them to medical appointments in Florida. Dennis stated in court papers that he will probably lose his Harlem apartment to his ex-wife in divorce proceedings. Court paperwork also indicates that Dennis suffers from high blood pressure and a bad heart.

Cyberstalking is a Federal crime. The Feds only prosecute the big cases. Most States added electronic forms of communication within existing stalking or harassment laws. In most cases States handle the cyberstalking as a misdemeanor or a low level felony. Federal law makes cyberstalking a felony with penalties up to five years in prison and fines of up to $250,000. It’s not clear from the court paperwork what types of emails Dennis sent to the partners at his former law firm, or how they felt threatened by Dennis. Its not clear whether they sought to get a restraining order against Dennis, or whether they went to the NYPD before they went to the Department of Justice.

The most recent big cyberstalking case handled by the DOJ was a case out of Boston, MA, in which a couple was cyberstalked by a group of rogue employees who worked for Ebay. David and Ina Steiner run a newsletter / blog in which they report on Ebay and Amazon and advise readers on how to make money on such forums. They are also big critics of Ebay. The rogue employees at Ebay engaged in a massive online intimidation campaign to shut down the Steiner’s blog, without revealing that they worked for Ebay. The employees sent the Steiners death threats over the internet and mailed the Steiners live spiders, a preserved fetal pig, cockroaches, a bloody pig mask, a funeral wreath, and a book entitled “Grief Diaries: Surviving Loss of a Spouse” with simultaneous Twitter messages such as “do I have your attention now, cunt?” “U are sick motha fuckers…and every one will kno! U fuckin cunt ass bitch!” paired with taunting emails and deliveries, including pornography and “Hustler: Barely Legal” magazines sent to the Steiner’s neighbors’ home in David Steiner’s name. The employees tried to break into the Steiner’s garage and install a GPS on their car. They sent pizza deliveries to the Steiners’ house at four in the morning. Text exchanges between the Ebay employees: “CEO Devin Wenig said to burn her to the ground correct?” “Ina Steiner is a biased troll who needs to get BURNED DOWN…I want to see ashes. As long as it takes. Whatever it takes.” The Ebay employees signed up the Steiners for subscriptions to pornography, bondage, cadaver interest, sex toys and anthropornography. They threatened to kill the Steiners with an ominous funeral wreath sent to the Steiner residence. They posted an online advertisement for an “Everything must go!” estate sale, listing the Steiner’s home address as the location. The Steiners constantly called the Natick Police Department. The local cops tried to help the Steiners, but the criminals at Ebay were not discouraged. Eventually the case was referred to the Feds and six Ebay employees, including a few senior executives, pleaded guilty to cyberstalking. The Steiners recently filed a civil lawsuit against Ebay and the guilty employees, which is still pending.

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