Sater was a cooperating witness in a 1998 criminal case in which his identity was supposed to remain protected as John Doe. However, in 2010, lawyer Frederick Oberlander identified Felix Sater in a civil action he brought in Manhattan federal court. In that action, individuals who had been defrauded by Sater referred to sealed documents from Sater’s criminal case.
Sater, however, initiated a civil contempt proceeding against Oberlander and his lawyer Richard Lerner, for violating the court order sealing Sater’s criminal case. At the time of the incident, Lerner was a partner at Wilson Elser. This September, Sater asked the court to add Wilson Elser as a party to the civil contempt proceeding. Lerner left the law firm last week over a disagreement as to whether he can continue to represent Oberlander in a related proceeding for unsealing the criminal docket.
According to court filings, prosecutors have also launched a probe as to whether Oberlander or Lerner broke rules and violated the court’s sealing order in the criminal case by providing related documents to the media.
The documents in the civil contempt proceeding case have also been sealed, although Judge Cogan ordered on Thursday to unseal the docket sheet and docket entries.
The case is John Doe v. Richard Roe, U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York, No. 12-557.