A federal grand jury in Connecticut found an electrical engineer guilty of 13 of 22 counts of converting trade secrets from a defense contractor. It found his co-defendant not guilty on all charges.
The defense maintains the government offered misleading information during trial, and is calling for a new trial.
The Hartford jury in the U.S. District Court for the District of Connecticut heard 17 days of testimony before rendering its verdicts Monday after 15 hours of deliberations. The 12-person jury agreed with prosecutors that Jared Sparks, who was accused of stealing trade secrets from Groton-based LBI, his former employer, uploaded thousands of LBI’s files to his personal account with Dropbox, a cloud-based file-storage application.
The government alleged that soon after Sparks uploaded the documents, he left LBI to work for a competitor, Cambridge, Massachusetts-based Charles River Analytics Inc. Its charging document alleges the files uploaded included accounting and engineering files as well as photographs related to designs and renderings used to fabricate and manufacture LBI’s unmanned vehicles and buoys.
The jury found the 34-year-old Sparks, an Oklahoma resident, guilty of six counts of theft of trade secrets, six counts of uploading trade secrets and one count of transmission of trade secrets. Each offense carries a maximum term of 10 years in prison. It cleared Sparks’ co-defendant, 46-year-old maritime technician Jay Williams, of all charges.
Patty DeJuneas, Sparks’ co-counsel, teamed with attorney Ashley Allen. She told the Connecticut Law Tribune Wednesday the government made statements in its closing arguments that “skirted very closely to being baseless.” That, she said, is one reason the defense is asking U.S. District Judge Alvin Thompson for a new trial.
“They said my client has downloaded and downloaded and downloaded files from his account, when there was no evidence he had done that,” said DeJuneas of Boston-based Sibbison & DeJuneas. “There was no support from the evidence that he downloaded anything from his Dropbox, nor did he share anything from his Dropbox with any other persons.”
In addition to allegations the government misled the court at closing, DeJuneas claims prosecutors surprised her team by “putting on witnesses for who we had no interview reports and no idea on what they were going to say.”
“They had a witness list for at least four witnesses and no notes or interview reports,” she said. “They mislead us as far as what these people would testify to.”
DeJuneas said there will be an evidentiary hearing by early September.
“The defense attorneys will have the opportunity to cross-examine the investigators to determine the extent to which they withheld evidence,” she said. “I do believe there will be a new trial and that the convictions will be thrown out.”
The United States was represented by Jacqueline Rodriguez-Coss, assistant U.S. attorney of the District of Connecticut and Assistant U.S. Attorneys Kebharu Smith and Joss Nichols of the U.S. Department of Justice, computer crime and intellectual property section. The U.S. Department of Justice’s Office of Public Affairs did not respond to a request for comment Wednesday. Tom Carson, a spokesperson for the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Connecticut, said the office would have no comment beyond what was issued in a press release.
That release includes a quote from Acting Assistant Attorney General John Cronan, which said, in part: “Jared Sparks stole thousands of documents, including proprietary designs and renderings, from his former employer when he left to work for a competitor. The verdict sends a clear message that the Department of Justice is committed to protecting American intellectual property and will aggressively prosecute those who steal it.”
Paul Kelly and Sarah Walsh, both of Boston-based Jackson Lewis, represented Williams. Jackson Lewis is an AmLaw 100 firm, based on The American Lawyer’s ranking of the country’s highest grossing law firms.
Kelly told the Connecticut Law Tribune that the most challenging part of the case was representing his client, while also protecting the rights of the co-defendant, who had different attorneys.
“We had to make sure we could vigorously defend our client while not doing any harm to the defense of our co-defendant,” Kelly said. “There were different facts and different issues, so we needed to stay unified, while also pointing out some of those differences.”
Kelly said the case against Williams, a Griswold resident, should have never been brought by the government.
“As I said to the jury in the beginning and closing, this was a glaring example of government overreach,” Kelly said. “My client was just doing his job.” Neither defendant testified during trial.
Williams, Kelly said, “was stoic and classy throughout. He hopes to return to some level of normalcy. He is still, though, in suspended disbelief.”