John Koeltl

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Person.png John Koeltl  Rdf-entity.pngRdf-icon.png
(US federal judge)
John Koetl.jpg
BornJohn George Koeltl
Alma materGeorgetown University, Harvard Law School
The US judge who dismissed the DNC civil suit against Julian Assange “with prejudice”. In retirement he has attempted to defend the rights of those imprisoned in Guantanamo Bay.

John Koeltl (born 1945) is a United States federal judge of the US District Court for the Southern District of New York in Manhattan.


John Koeltl was born in New York City. He graduated from Regis High School in New York City in 1963. He studied history at Georgetown University, receiving a BA in 1967. In 1971 he obtained his Juris Doctor from Harvard Law School, where he was an editor of the Harvard Law Review. He was a law clerk for Judge Edward Weinfeld of the Southern District of New York and then for Justice Potter Stewart of the United States Supreme Court.[1]

Legal career

In 1973-74 Koeltl served as an Assistant Special Prosecutor for the Watergate Special Prosecution Force, then entered private law practice in New York. For several years, Koeltl was a partner at the New York law firm of Debevoise & Plimpton. During these years, Koeltl served on several committees of the Association of the Bar of the City of New York and American Bar Association and was the author of several published articles on securities law and other topics.

Judicial service

John Koeltl was nominated as a US federal judge by President Bill Clinton on 26 April 1994 to a seat vacated by Judge Shirley Wohl Kram. He was confirmed by the Senate on 9 August 1994, and commissioned on 10 August 1994.[2]

Notable decisions

Judge Koeltl is known for his October 2006 decision to sentence civil rights lawyer Lynne Stewart to 28 months in prison for providing material assistance to a terrorist, her client, 1993 World Trade Center bombing mastermind Omar Abdel-Rahman, by secretly passing messages to his radical followers in Egypt. Koeltl rejected the prosecutors' recommendation of 30 years.[3] The United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit ordered Koeltl to reconsider whether that sentence was too light and to take into account the government's arguments that she had committed perjury at her trial and abused her position as a lawyer. On remand, Koeltl cited remarks Stewart had made after being sentenced that indicated a lack of remorse. He changed the sentence to 10 years in prison.[4][5]

In 2011, he presided over the case involving Raffaello Follieri, who pleaded guilty to conspiracy, fraud and money laundering in connection with purchases of property from the Catholic Church. The Follieri case received significant media scrutiny due to his relationship with celebrities, notably Anne Hathaway and several politicians, including former president Bill Clinton [6] and 2008 Republican presidential nominee John McCain. Koeltl also presided over a case brought by Citigroup against Wells Fargo to halt the latter's purchase of Wachovia, which Citi had earlier announced plans to purchase.[7] The litigation settled in 2010.[8]

A US appeals court, in an opinion written by Koeltl, tossed out a $654 million jury verdict against the Palestine Liberation Organization for terrorist attacks in the early 2000s in Israel that killed or wounded Americans, saying the US courts lack jurisdiction because the attacks were random and not aimed at the United States.[9]

In August 2012, Koeltl presided over an epic trial in Dreier v. Clorite. The case was a personal feud between Spencer Dreier, son of Marc Dreier, and Benjamin Clorite, Spencer's former roommate at Union College.[10] After almost three years of litigation, the feud ended with a settlement.

DNC v. Julian Assange and others

In April 2018, John Koeltl was assigned to preside over a civil lawsuit filed by the Democratic National Committee against the Russian Federation, WikiLeaks, the Donald Trump presidential campaign, and several individuals. The suit alleges that Russian interference in the 2016 United States presidential election harmed Democrats.[11]

On 30 July 2019, Judge John Koeltl dismissed the case, warning:

“If WikiLeaks could be held liable for publishing documents concerning the Democratic National Committee’s political, financial and voter-engagement strategies simply because the DNC labels them ‘secret’ and trade secrets, then so could any newspaper or other media outlet.”

This, Judge Koetl stated, would “override the First Amendment” protection to freedom of the press mandated by the US Constitution.

Koetl's ruling dismissing the DNC civil suit against Julian Assange “with prejudice” was a devastating indictment of the US ruling elite’s campaign to destroy the WikiLeaks founder. It exposed as a fraud the entire “Russiagate” conspiracy theory peddled by the Democratic Party, the corporate media and the intelligence agencies for the past three years.

The decision rejected the smears that Assange “colluded” with Russia. It upheld his status as a journalist and publisher and dismissed claims that WikiLeaks’ 2016 publication of leaked emails from the DNC was “illegal.”

Despite the significance of the ruling, and its clear newsworthiness, it has been subjected to an almost complete blackout by the entire media in the US and internationally.[12]

Joshua Dratel, an attorney for WikiLeaks, said he was “very gratified with the result, which reaffirms First Amendment principles that apply to journalists across the board, whether they work for large institutions or small independent operations.”[13]


Related Document

TitleTypePublication dateAuthor(s)Description
Document:Media silent on dismissal of DNC suit against Julian AssangeArticle2 August 2019Oscar GrenfellJudge Koeltl further undermined the claims of the Trump administration, the Democrats and the media that Julian Assange is a “hacker,” undeserving of First Amendment protections. In other words, the attempt to extradite Assange to the US and prosecute him is a frontal assault on the US Constitution and press freedom.


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