Monday, May 08, 2017

US v. Liew, No. 14-10367 (5-5-17)(Owens w/Schroeder & Wardlaw).  This case deals with economic espionage, obstruction, and witness tampering.  Specifically, conspiracy, attempted theft, possession of misappropriated trade secrets, and conveying trade secrets belonging to DuPont.  There were also charges for witness and evidence tampering. The trade secret was the manufacture of titanium dioxide.  As the opinion states, "If you wanted to learn about the secret and lucrative world of titanium dioxide production, this was the trial for you.  TiO2 is a white pigment extracted from ore and used in a wide variety of products, from paint to the filling in Oreo cookies." (5). The jury convicted on all counts.

The 9th affirmed various convictions for economic espionage.  The evidence was sufficient to support the jury verdict.  The jury instructions were not erroneous. The 9th did reverse the convictions for conspiracy to obstruct justice related to the filing of a false answer in a civil action.  The "answer" about not misappropriating was close to a general denial. The conviction for witness tampering was also vacated.   A statement by a defendant that witnesses should not mention anything was not exactly intimidation or threatening.

An interesting Brady issue results in a remand for in camera review.  The defendant argues that the prosecution should have disclosed the rough notes of the FBI's interview with a deceased (suicide) co-conspirator. The defendant had the 302s; however, a declaration from counsel for the co-defendant stated that the co-conspirator denied he was ever involved in a conspiracy, and that any secrets were in a box mailed by DuPont to him when he retired. He thought the materials were "valueless" and subsequently sold them to the defendant.  These statements were not in the 302. The 9th considered the allegation, supported by the declaration, to have created an inference that the rough notes contained favorable information.  Such information could undermine the confidence of the verdict.  The 9th remanded so the court could review the material in camera and to determine whether disclosure might have affected the trial's outcome.

The decision is here:


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