Ex-Motorola Engineer Stole Trade Secrets, U.S. Tells Judge

An ex-Motorola Inc. software engineer should be found guilty of stealing trade secrets from the company to benefit a business in China and that nation’s military, a U.S. prosecutor told a federal judge.

Hanjuan Jin, the former employee, faces as long as 15 years in prison if she is convicted on three counts of stealing secrets to benefit a foreign government. She also faces three trade-secret theft charges with a maximum sentence of 10 years.

“The government asks that you deliver the verdict that the evidence overwhelmingly supports,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Sharon Fairley said today in her closing arguments to U.S. District Judge Ruben Castillo in Chicago.

Jin was indicted in 2008, one year after had she returned to the Schaumburg, Illinois-based company from a medical leave of absence and then stepped down. U.S. customs agents stopped her at Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport on Feb. 28, 2007. She was carrying more than 1,000 Motorola documents, $30,000 and a one-way ticket to China.

She waived her right to a trial by jury. Castillo will determine whether the U.S. has met its burden of proof beyond a reasonable doubt.

Jin’s lawyer, John Murphy, told the judge she isn’t guilty.

‘Very Specific Way’

“The government saw this case in a very specific way from the very first day,” Murphy, a member 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.

Jin, he said, was no spy, just a bad employee.

Fairley, in her closing, pointed to three confidential documents found in Jin’s possession at the airport, relating to Motorola’s “push-to-talk” mobile phone technology.

She disputed defense arguments that the documents concerning the company’s integrated digital enhanced network, or iDEN, technology, were obsolete and without value.

“Based on the evidence, this argument must fail,” Fairley said. Because it can take as much as 10 years for older technology to fall out of use, each document contained valuable technical information, she said.

Double Life

Jin, she said, was leading a double life, simultaneously working for Motorola, and a smaller Schaumburg rival, Lemko Corp., and associated with Beijing-based Kai Sun News (Beijing) Technology Co., also known as SunKaisens, which was affiliated with China’s military.

Murphy disputed Fairley’s “double life” assertion, calling it a “dime store novel” idea used to sensationalize the case.

Jin, who was born in China, became a naturalized U.S. citizen and worked for Motorola for nine years, lived only one life, that of an immigrant torn between her successful career here and her mother and husband in China, Murphy said.

The defense lawyer said prosecutors “spectacularly” failed to prove the documents she took from Motorola benefited SunKaisens or to the Chinese military or that they wanted them.

“It’s an enormous hole in their case,” the defense lawyer said.

Still, Castillo questioned whether Jin’s mere possession of confidential Motorola papers, taken from the company without its permission, means she is guilty.

Liability is not absolute, the defense lawyer responded.

‘James Bond’

Rebutting Murphy’s arguments, 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.

Castillo said he will issue a written ruling next month. The trial began Nov. 7.

“There’s no rush to judgment,” the judge said the end of today’s proceedings. “That would be a disservice to both sides.”

The case is U.S. v. Jin, 08-cr-192, U.S. District Court, Northern District of Illinois (Chicago).

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