It looks as though the U.S. Attorney's Office wasn't willing to risk another loss in a novel economic espionage case that ended badly for prosecutors last year.
The office on Friday moved to dismiss the remaining charge against two Silicon Valley engineers, Lan Lee and Yuefei Ge, who were accused of stealing trade secrets from their employer, NetLogic Microsystems, and trying to commercialize them with venture funding from the Chinese government.
After a three-week trial last November, a jury acquitted the pair on two counts and deadlocked on three others, prompting U.S. District Judge James Ware of San Jose, Calif., to later junk two of the three lingering counts. Ware kept in play one trade secret count, on which jurors had divided 6-6. With Ware's approval, that count will now be history too.
Ge's attorney, Edward Swanson of San Francisco's Swanson & McNamara, said: "This is the right result, and we appreciate the prosecutor being willing to take another look at the case."
Of course, there's a new U.S. Attorney in charge now.
U.S. Attorney Melinda Haag came on board in the Northern District of California after Lee and Ge were tried. Asked whether the new leadership had anything to do with Friday's move, Lee's attorney, Thomas Nolan of Nolan, Armstrong & Barton, said: "This was a losing case for the government, and in spite of that, it's quite possible, the old administration wouldn't let it go." Swanson said it "has everything to do with the facts of this case.
"I think it was more a function of taking one more look at it before devoting the resources" they would have needed for a retrial, he said.
Haag spokesman Jack Gillund offered no explanation. "We don't comment on ongoing cases," he said. "Until the judge signs off on it, it's an ongoing case."
Defense attorneys say this was the only economic espionage case in the country ever to go to a jury trial and one of only a handful ever to be charged.
This article first appeared on Legal Pad: A Recorder blog.