Ex-Motorola Worker Guilty of Trade Secret Theft, Judge Rules
Hanjuan Jin, a former Motorola Inc. (MMI) software engineer, was found guilty of stealing trade secrets from that company and acquitted of charges she did so to benefit a Chinese company and that country’s military.
U.S. District Judge Ruben Castillo in Chicago announced his ruling today from the bench. Jin waived her right to a jury and was tried before him in November. She faces a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison on each of the three counts for which the judge found her guilty.
After the hearing, one of Jin’s lawyers, John Murphy, told reporters that Castillo’s ruling would be appealed.
“The goverment’s theory of this case was rejected,” Murphy said, calling the ruling a full repudiation of prosecutors’ assertion his client was “some sort of spy for the Chinese government.”
Jin was indicted in 2008 on the trade-secret theft counts for which she was convicted and three counts of economic espionage, each punishable by as long as 15 years in prison.
U.S. Customs agents stopped her as she was about to board a plane at Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport on Feb. 28, 2007. In her possession were more than 1,000 Motorola documents, $30,000 in cash and a one-way ticket to China.
“I conclude that Ms. Jin criminally betrayed Motorola by stealing its trade secrets,” the judge said. Prosecutors didn’t persuade him beyond a reasonable doubt that Jin was a Chinese agent, Castillo said.
The judge ordered Jin confined to her home, with electronic monitoring. He scheduled her sentencing for April 18.
“We want to send a message to the corporate community that we take the theft of trade secrets very seriously,” Chicago U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald told reporters after Castillo announced his ruling. He called Jin’s ticket to China “a one- way ticket to trouble for her.”
Prosecuting such cases is a Justice Department priority, he said.
Asked whether he was concerned that Castillo had rejected the economic espionage counts, Fitzgerald said, “It’s clear she was headed to China.” The judge, he said, found that the proof wasn’t direct enough as to whether the Motorola materials in Jin’s possession were meant to benefit the Chinese military. “We respectfully disagree with that, but he makes the calls.”
Fitzgerald declined to say how long a sentence he would ask the court to impose.
“Motorola Solutions appreciates the significant efforts the government devoted to prosecuting this case and securing this verdict,” said Tama McWhinney, a company spokeswoman. “We fully cooperated with the government’s investigation and are pleased with this outcome.”
Defense lawyers argued at trial that their client was innocent and that the documents in her possession related to obsolete technologies and fell short of the criminal definition of trade secrets.
“The government saw this case in a very specific way from the very first day,” Murphy, of the Chicago Federal Public Defender’s Office, said in his closing argument.
That viewpoint, he said, was based on the O’Hare incident in which officials became suspicious about the amount of U.S. currency she was carrying and the nature of the documents in her possession.
“They made the determination from that point, that Ms. Jin was a spy,” Murphy said. A naturalized U.S. citizen, the Chinese-born Jin was no spy, merely a bad employee, he said.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Steven Dollear said that while the U.S. never expressly said Jin was a spy, “She was better than James Bond.”
“She had a nine-year cover story,” Dollear said. He said the length of her Motorola employment and the trust engendered by it allowed her to carry two bags full of documents out of its offices in February 2007 without security officers doing anything more than holding the door open for her.
The case is U.S. v. Jin, 08-cr-192, U.S. District Court, Northern District of Illinois (Chicago).
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