Maritime Technician Exonerated in Theft of Trade Secret Case
Following a month-long trial in Hartford, Connecticut, before Chief U.S. District Judge Alvin Thompson, a jury returned a split verdict in a case charging two defendants with conspiracy and theft of trade secrets. The jury completely exonerated one of two defendants, Jay Williams, while returning guilty verdicts on certain counts against his co-defendant, and acquitting him on several other counts.
Dylan Sparks, an electrical engineer from Ardmore, Oklahoma, and Jay Williams, a maritime technician from Griswold, Connecticut, formerly worked for LBI, a military contractor from Groton, Connecticut, specializing in the fabrication of marine vessels. The company worked together with two other contractors which specialized in navigational software, Charles River Analytics (CRA) of Cambridge, Massachusetts, and Metron Scientific Solutions of Arlington, Virginia, to design, build, and test an autonomous unmanned underwater vehicle for the Office of Naval Research (ONR). After working on the program for just over a year, ONR decided to discontinue LBI’s role on the project due to technical deficiencies, missed deadlines, cost overruns, and communications issues. Sparks and Williams, who had been involved on the program from the outset, wanted to remain involved in this important ONR research effort. Just prior to the start of the expanded CRA contract, both of them left their employment with LBI and took positions with CRA.
An indictment was returned in November 2016, charging Sparks and Williams with conspiracy to steal, upload, transmit, and possess stolen trade secrets — namely, alleged proprietary photographs, diagrams, and schematics of technology alleging belonging to LBI, in violation of 18 U.S.C. §1832. Each defendant also was charged with substantive offenses under the same federal statute; Sparks with 21 separate counts of uploading, transmittal and possession, and Williams with 7 counts of possession of stolen trade secrets. The allegations involved the defendants’ use of the cloud-based software known as “Dropbox,” which was used to upload and store various photographs, drawings, and other materials in personal accounts. The defense argued that this activity was for lawful and legitimate purposes, while the government alleged that it amounted to theft and possession of stolen trade secrets. There was no evidence offered at trial that any of the alleged proprietary data was ever shared with CRA, Metron, or anyone else.
After deliberating the case for approximately 15 hours, the jury found Williams not guilty of all charges against him, and found Sparks not guilty on 9 counts, but guilty on 13 counts – – primarily involving the theft and uploading charges.
According to counsel to Williams, “As we advised the jury, this case was a glaring example of government overreach, and the prosecution taking sides in what is essentially a civil dispute between two companies. Contrary to the government’s press release, this was not a case about protecting the national security or the intellectual property of LBI. In fact, the dedicated efforts of these two individuals served to enhance the security of the nation and contributed to the advancement of an important project for the U.S. Navy and its fleet.”