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Saturday, June 15, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Stealing Secrets Didn’t Betray U.S. for China

CHICAGO (CN) - A Chinese woman who attempted to fly to Beijing with more than 2,000 confidential Motorola documents in her bags did not betray the United States, a federal judge ruled.

After eight years of working for Motorola, Hanjuan Jin took over a year-long leave of absence for medical reasons from the Chicago-based telecommunications company in 2006. During this time, she accepted a job in China with Sun Kaisens, a competitor that develops technology for the Chinese military.

While working for Sun Kaisens, Jin returned to work at Motorola for one day in February 2007. Upon gaining access to Motorola's network, Jin downloaded more than 2,000 technical documents, saving some to her personal hard drive and printing others.

On Feb. 28, U.S. Customs stopped Jin while attempting to board a flight to Beijing from Chicago O'Hare International Airport, carrying more than $30,000 in cash. Upon further investigation, the agents found Motorola documents marked as "confidential and proprietary information" in her carry-on bags.

Jin was accused of stealing Motorola's trade secrets with the intention of delivering them to Sun Kaisens. She was further charged with three counts of economic espionage.

After Jin waived her rights to a jury trial, U.S. District Judge Ruben Castillo found her guilty of the theft of trade secrets, but not economic espionage.

"Jin's vast downloading of thousands of documents over the course of a few days indicates that she did not merely clean out her desk in a haphazard manner," Castillo wrote. "She used multiple storage devices to store the documents, and possessed many of the documents in paper form."

"The elaborate steps taken by Jin to obtain the documents also show that she was acting with the improper purpose of obtaining an economic benefit for herself," Castillo continued. "Her prior purchase of a one-way ticket to China indicates that she had no intention of staying when she returned to Motorola. As soon as she knew she had access to the Motorola buildings and the Motorola network, she began accessing and saving thousands of documents, and did so late into the night and after she sent her email resignation. There simply was no legitimate reason for these multiple deceptive acts, which firmly establish Jin's criminal intent. The court concludes that the government proved beyond a reasonable doubt that Jin took trade secrets with the purpose of economically benefiting herself and indirectly benefiting Sun Kaisens."

Prosecutors failed to prove that Jin stole the Motorola documents for the benefit of the People's Republic of China (PRC). "The government put forth no evidence that Jin was asked or directed to take the trade secrets, and the evidence did not establish that Jin planned to give the trade secrets to Sun Kaisens, let alone the PRC," he wrote.

Furthermore, the stolen documents discussed "2G technology that had been surpassed by other telecommunications technology and would likely be phased out of use in the not-too-distant future."

"Thus, this was not cutting-edge technology that would necessarily give the PRC any tactical, reputational, or other benefit," the 77-page decision states.

"There is certainly plenty of speculative proof that the PRC may have benefited from Jin's conduct, but such speculation does not equate to proof beyond a reasonable doubt," Castillo concluded.

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