Willie E. Dennis, a former K&L Gates partner in New York, is facing federal cyberstalking charges after carrying out what prosecutors in Manhattan say was a “campaign of harassment” against his partners at the firm.
Prosecutors accused Dennis of “harassment, intimidation, and threats” against multiple individuals, including partners, who worked at his former firm. He sent the victims “thousands of harassing, threatening, and intimidating emails and text messages,” according to an indictment unsealed Friday.
The indictment does not list details about the nature of the alleged stalking or identify the alleged victims. K&L Gates had been in a legal dispute with Dennis, a former corporate partner, that included allegations of misbehavior.
Dennis, who is Black and was fired in 2019, accused the firm of systemically discriminating against Black partners. K&L Gates countered that the suit was part of a “smear campaign” and attributed his firing in 2019 to “an extensive and documented record of erratic, harassing and improper behavior.”
The firm said during an 18-month period after his departure in May 2019 he sent thousands of emails, text messages, faxes and voicemails to firm lawyers that were intended to “harass, humiliate, intimidate, or stoke fear” in the recipients.
The messages included sexist, racist, anti-Semitic and physically threatening statements, the firm said. The firm said he told a Jewish lawyer to “start the ovens,” referred to an Asian-American lawyer as “Wuhan,” and also used racial epithets to refer to other Black lawyers.
Dennis’ civil suit was paused in March with the parties told to pursue arbitration. The arbitration was ongoing as of September, according to the court docket.
Prosecutors said Dennis was arrested this week in the Dominican Republic and was set to appear Friday in Manhattan federal court. The federal indictment filed on Friday includes four counts of cyberstalking. Each count carries a maximum sentence of five years in prison.
A K&L Gates spokesman confirmed Dennis was terminated from the firm two and a half years ago and said the firm would not comment further given the pending criminal charges.
A voicemail left for a phone number registered to Dennis was not immediately returned. K&L Gates did not immediately respond to a request for comment.