Corporate-China Espionage Trial Begins In US

The trial began of a Chinese-born American woman accused of stealing secrets from a cellphone company knowing they would likely end up in the hands of China's military.

CHICAGO (AP) -- The trial began Monday of a Chinese-born American woman accused of stealing secrets from a cellphone company knowing they would likely end up in the hands of China's military. The case highlights persistent fears about Chinese espionage.

A prosecutor described Hanjuan Jin as a University of Notre Dame graduate who rose through Motorola Inc. to become a senior software engineer, only to violate the company's trust by stealing documents on confidential technology and trying to flee on a one-way ticket to China.

"This is a woman who led a double life," government attorney Christopher Stetler said in his opening statement.

The 41-year-old Jin did violate policy by removing the documents in 2007, and "Motorola has a right to be upset," defense attorney Beth Gaus conceded in her opening. But she said Jin compiled the documents merely to refresh her own technical knowledge after a long medical absence.

While on medical leave, prosecutors say, Jin began working for a technology company in China unbeknownst to Motorola. When she returned to her Motorola office on Feb. 26, 2007, she allegedly spent two days downloading documents.

Jin was about to board a plane in Chicago on Feb. 28, 2007, when a customs agent stopped her for a random check and discovered the documents, many stored electronically. Jin also carried $31,000 in cash.

U.S. counterintelligence experts have said the Chinese are among the most active espionage offenders in the United States, but Beijing has consistently denied engaging in such activities.

Jin waived her right to a jury trial, leaving it to U.S. District Judge Ruben Castillo to eventually decide a verdict.

The case could be decided on the issue of whether the documents were as vital as the government contends.

Gaus said the supposedly sophisticated technology at the center of the trial -- a walkie-talkie type feature on Motorola cellphones -- was far from cutting edge and would have been little use to China's military.

"It was at a developmental dead end," Gaus said, adding that meant the documents don't meet the legal definition of trade secrets.

Motorola did not take the kinds of precautions needed to ensure the documents didn't slip so easily into the wrong hands, Gaus said.

"(Motorola) is asking this court to provide protection of its documents that it did not provide itself," she said.

The government attorney, however, said Motorola had imposed strict security measures, including setting computer passwords to strict limit access to documents.

More in Home