The Roundup Weed Killer Story You Didn’t Hear About This Week: Attorney Pleads Guilty To Extortion

Legal News

Bayer AG made history this week when the German pharmaceutical giant announced it will settle Roundup cancer lawsuits for nearly $11 billion. A couple days before this historic settlement, the largest in pharmaceutical history, another dramatic Roundup news story broke, albeit not with the same fanfare as the settlement…

The first Roundup lawsuit in which a plaintiff was awarded damages was the 2018 case of Dewayne Johnson, a groundskeeper who accidentally spilled the toxic herbicide on his body, and ultimately developed a deadly form of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma because of it, the jury found. (Johnson was awarded $289 million; a judge later reduced the award to $78 million. )

One of the attorneys who helped represent Johnson was Timothy Litzenburg, 38, of Virginia. On June 19, Litzenburg pleaded guilty to attempted extortion. Litzenburg and another attorney who pleaded guilty as an accomplice to the scheme, attorney Daniel Kincheloe, 41, threatened to inflict substantial “financial and reputational harm” upon a chemical supplier of Monsanto, which Bayer AG acquired for $63 billion in 2018, unless the supplier paid them a $200 million consulting fee.

Per a U.S. District Court for the Western District of Virginia Criminal Complaint, allegedly, Litzenburg told the company that in exchange for the consulting fee, he would “take a dive” during a deposition. Sabotaging the deposition, consequently, would mitigate the chances of future success for Roundup plaintiffs. The two men will be sentenced Sept. 18.

According to the criminal complaint, in an email to the company that supplied Monsanto with glyphosate, the toxic compound that Johnson and over 50,000 other plaintiffs have claimed has caused their cancer, Litzenburg wrote that the $200 million consulting fee is “a very reasonable price.”

Litzenburg was recorded on a phone call by federal investigators. In the recorded call, the convicted attorney said, “I don’t think there’s any way you get out of it [the settlements] for less than a billion dollars. And so, you know, to me, uh, this is a fire sale price that you guys should consider…” (Litzenburg turned out to be prophetic about the settlement.)

Although he wasn’t present during Johnson’s trial, Litzenburg did help the former groundskeeper and groundbreaking plaintiff with trial preparations. At the time of Johnson’s case against Monsanto, Litzenburg’s employer, The Miller Firm, would not allow Litzenburg to participate in the trial over concerns about his erratic behavior; the Firm ultimately fired and sued him in 2019. In response, Litzenburg counter-sued. The two parties reached a confidential settlement.

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