A judge ordered the Justice Department to pay the legal expenses for a Huntsville, Ala., defense contractor cleared of illegally exporting information about an Army helicopter to China.
Axion Corp. is entitled to recoup expenses from the government for legal fees, filing costs and money spent on expert witnesses during an October trial, U.S. District Court Judge Inge Johnson ruled late Wednesday.
The owner of Axion, Alex Latifi, will be able to collect about $500,000 in expenses, said his lawyer, Henry Frohsin.
An attorney who specializes in such cases called the decision unprecedented.
"No one I know of has ever recovered legal fees against the federal government in an arms-export case," said lawyer Cliff Burns, an arms-export expert with a Washington law firm.
U.S. Attorney Alice H. Martin said the ruling means her office can't try again to seize the assets of Latifi, an Iranian-born U.S. citizen. She said they had no desire to do so after the trial.
Latifi and Axion were indicted in March 2007 on six federal charges of fraud, submitting false statements to the government and exporting military technology to a foreign county without a license.
The government accused Latifi of exporting technical drawings of a part of a UH-60 Black Hawk to China without obtaining a license or authorization from the State Department. Latifi denied any wrongdoing.
Johnson threw out all the charges in October, ruling the government lacked enough evidence to convict Latifi.
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