9th Circuit Upholds Long Sentence for Espionage
(CN) - An engineer convicted of selling stealth technology to China failed to persuade the 9th Circuit that the statements he made to federal agents over a week of voluntary interrogations should have been kept out of his espionage trial.
The federal appeals court on Monday affirmed Noshir S. Gowadia's convictions and 32-year prison sentence for communicating classified national defense information to the China, illegally exporting military technical data, money laundering, filing false tax returns and other offenses.
Gowadia, a naturalized American citizen born in India, worked for some 20 years as an engineer at the Northrop Corporation, where he helped design the top-secret B-2 stealth bomber. Authorities claimed at his 2011 trial that Gowadia began passing classified technology to China shortly after he left Northrop and started an aerospace engineering consulting company in the late 1990s.
Prosecutors alleged that Gowadia took six trips to China between 2003 and 2005, and gave a PowerPoint presentation about the effectiveness of exhaust nozzles on China's cruise missile project, among other classified information. He received about $110,000 from China, which prosecutors said was payment in part for his help in developing a Chinese exhaust nozzle that would be difficult to detect on infrared systems.
Among other evidence, prosecutors presented statements Gowadia had made to the FBI, in which he admitted that he had shared military secrets and technical knowledge, and that this had amounted to "espionage and treason."
Gowadia appealed to the 9th Circuit after being found guilty by a federal jury in Hawaii in 2011.
He argued, among other things, that his statements to the FBI should have been suppressed because the government had neglected to promptly present him to a magistrate judge after his detainment.
The three-judge appeals panel unanimously rejected the challenge on Monday, finding that presentment was not an issue because Gowadia had not been under arrest when he made the statements.
Federal agents questioned Gowadia over several weeks in 2005 -- at his home in Hawaii, at a coffee shop, at the Maui County Police Department, and finally in Honolulu. The latter sessions lasted from 6.5 to 7.5 hours a day over seven days, during which "Gowadia wrote out copious notes - the record contains seventy-odd pages of them - for the agents, detailing his activities and his motivations, and admitting wrongdoing," the appellate panel noted.
Through it all, Gowadia was free to stop the questioning and leave, but he didn't.
"Gowadia voluntarily accompanied the agents to each interview, first to the craft room, then to the coffee shop, then to the police station in Maui, and then to Honolulu," wrote Judge M. Margaret McKeown for the panel. "He was told, at his house, that he was free to leave, and during each interview, was told that he was 'free to leave,' that he could 'terminate' the interviews, that he was 'not under arrest.' No restrictions were placed on his movement, as he acknowledged, and he was never handcuffed. Gowadia did terminate interviews when he was tired, and at the end of each day in Honolulu he left the FBI offices and returned to his hotel room."
While federal rules of procedure generally require presentment within six hours of an arrest, that rule was not triggered until Gowadia's arrest on Oct. 26, 2005, several days after he had made the statements voluntarily, the panel found.
In the wake of the ruling, attorney Georgia McMillen, who represented Gowadia, said "We are reviewing our options."