A Chinese man illegally took data on military-related technology from his New Jersey company back to his home country and lied to authorities about it upon his return, prosecutors charged Wednesday in the first day of his federal trial.
Nonsense, Sixing Liu's attorney told jurors during his opening statement. The attorney, James Tunick, characterized Liu as a diligent and conscientious worker who was ill-informed about import-export laws and merely downloaded the information to work on outside the office.
Liu was arrested last year at his home in Deerfield, Illinois, and was charged with exporting defense-related data without a license, lying to authorities and possessing stolen trade secrets. The secrets dealt with technology that could be used for target locators and other military applications.
Liu, a legal permanent U.S. resident, was living in New Jersey and working at New Jersey-based Space & Navigation, a division of New York company L3 Communications that develops navigation devices and other components for the Department of Defense.
According to the indictment, Liu took a personal laptop computer to conferences on nanotechnology in Chongqing in 2009 and Shanghai in 2010 and, while there, gave presentations that described the technology he was working on, in violation of U.S. laws that prohibit exporting defense materials without a license or approval from the Department of State.
A customs agent at Newark Liberty International Airport noticed a VIP badge from the Shanghai conference when Liu returned home in November 2010. When questioned, Liu lied about the Shanghai conference, Assistant U.S. Attorney Gurbir Singh Grewal said in his opening statement.
Liu knew his company's rules that prohibit taking work home without a supervisor's OK and illegally took the data as a way to help him get a job in China, Grewal said.
"It's not about taking work home," he told jurors. "This is not an environment where you can do that."
Tunick contended that Liu's taking of the information occurred when he downloaded emails on his laptop so he could see them without requiring Internet access. He said the conference in Shanghai was attended by professors from many countries, including the U.S.
"Is the fact he went to his alma mater and spoke some sort of motive in this case?" Tunick asked. "There was nothing nefarious about this conference. He wasn't looking for work in China. There was no motive in this case because there was no crime."
Liu's training in the laws governing the export of defense materials consisted of 15 minutes on his first day of work, between sessions on employee benefits and sexual harassment guidelines, Tunick said.
An expert in military technology testified early in the afternoon, and a computer forensics specialist was expected to testify.
One juror was dismissed after opening statements but before testimony began after she expressed concern that she might know one of the scheduled witnesses.