- The Indian American is known for handling some of the most complicated and high-profile criminal cases including that of Canadian screenwriter, film producer, and director Paul Haggis’ sexual assault case.
Nearly five years after it gained widespread attention, the #MeToo movement is again in the spotlight as several prominent sexual assault trials are being held in courtrooms in the country. Among them is that of screenwriter, film producer, and director Paul Haggis who is accused raping publicist Haleigh Breest. Defending him is well-known Indian American criminal lawyer Priya Chaudhry, the founding partner of the Chaudhry Law PLC.
Chaudhry has made quite a name handling some of the most complicated and prominent cases representing, among others, the likes of Jennifer Shah, the star of “Real Housewives of Salt Lake City.” She has earned a distinct reputation “for her exceptional preparation and fierce advocacy. Her website notes that she “aggressively and creatively” defends her clients’ rights, “regardless of the charges leveled against them.” Chaudhry’s attention to detail, communication skills, and personal involvement have made her one of the most sought-after criminal lawyers in New York.
She has been demonstrating these qualities during the Haggis trial. Breast has claimed that the filmmaker forced her to perform oral sex and raped her after she reluctantly agreed to a drink in his apartment after a 2013 movie premiere. Haggis maintains that the encounter was consensual.
Various reports detailing the case note the opening statements where Chaudhry tried to establish that Breest falsely accused her client of rape to get a payout. She told the court that Breest never went to police, but soon after the encounter, she gave friends an account of what happened, sending text messages that could bolster their case,” a report by The Los Angeles Times said. She also told the court that the woman who is accusing her client didn’t go public until after the allegations against Harvey Weinstein became public in 2017 and Haggis condemned the Hollywood producer.
While Haggis’ trial is being held in a New York State court, “the federal court next door is housing a trial in a lawsuit accusing Oscar-winning actor Kevin Spacey of sexual assault,” The LA Times noted. In Los Angeles, “former film mogul Harvey Weinstein and actor Danny Masterson are fighting criminal rape charges at separate trials down the hall from each other,” the report said.
Before this case, Chaudhry represented Jennifer Shah, who pleaded guilty in July to wire fraud, after previously entering a not-guilty plea. Chaudhry told Us Weekly that her client is “a good woman who crossed a line.” She said Shah “accepts full responsibility for her actions and deeply apologizes to all who have been harmed.” Her client “pled guilty because she wants to pay her debt to society and put this ordeal behind her and her family,” she told the publication.
Chaudhry also represents individuals in regulatory proceedings, such as FINRA and SEC actions, as well as alleged Title IX violations. This summer, she defended Nikhil Wahi, a 26-year-old Indian citizen from Seattle, Washington, who was charged along with his brother Ishan Wahi and friend Sameer Ramani of wire fraud in a cryptocurrency fraud case.
Nikhil Wahi was “tipped off “ by his brother a former Coinbase employee, “about crypto assets that were to be listed on Coinbase exchanges” according to a Bloomberg Law report. Chaudhry accused prosecutors of targeting the brothers as a “scapegoat because so many people have lost money in cryptocurrency recently.” “The government is embarrassed and arresting Nikhil Wahi is a knee-jerk reaction to save face,” she said in an emailed statement to Bloomberg in July.
In a 2016 interview with New York Metro Super Lawyers magazine, Chaudhry admitted the importance of being invested in one’s client. “When I started, I wish I knew how important the emotional experience of a client is, and how to be present for it,” she said. The lawyer she most admired is her grandfather, she told the magazine, “a prominent criminal defense lawyer in India, who once won an acquittal in a broad-daylight murder case with four eyewitnesses.”
While not much is known about Chaudhry’s personal life, she told the Super Lawyers magazine that she grew up in the projects in Cleveland, Ohio, and is a lifelong fan of the Cleveland Browns. She follows in her grandfather’s footsteps, also a criminal lawyer, embodying his work ethic and discipline.
On the professional front, Chaudhry previously worked with St. Laurent before spinning off her own practice, according to her LinkedIn profile. She received her undergraduate degree from the University of California at Berkeley with High Honors and graduated from Northwestern University School of Law. Her formidable career wins her regular recognition, including from the American Board of Criminal Lawyers, the National Association of Distinguished Counsel, and America’s Top 100 Criminal Defense Attorneys, to name a few.
For over a decade, she has taught Trial Advocacy at institutions such as Cardozo Law School, Rutgers School of Law, and the New Jersey Public Defender, per her website. She has also lectured as adjunct faculty at Columbia Law School and Fordham Law School. She is the author of “Crimes of Dishonesty: Perjury, False Statement, and Obstruction of Justice” in “White Collar Crime: Business and Regulatory Offenses” (2017) and co-hosts the “Security & Compliance Weekly” podcast.
Her Twitter description sums up her best: “Brown. Immigrant. Woman. Lawyer. American. Warrior. Jedi.”