Judge Rules Wyko/Goodyear Case Photos Must Be Viewed in Camera
A Knoxville federal magistrate judge has ruled that pictures at the centre of industrial espionage case linking Wyko and Goodyear must be viewed “in camera” to protect the interests of those involved. The Knoxville News Sentinel reported that US Magistrate Judge Clifford Shirley has approved federal prosecutors' request to keep the seven mobile phone pictures allegedly taken at Goodyear’s Topeka, Kansas OTR plant in May 2007 by Wyko Tire Technology employees Clark Alan Roberts and Sean Edward Howley secret.
Roberts and Howley are accused of visiting The Goodyear plant under false pretences, covertly using their mobile phones to take photographs of proprietary equipment and sending these to Wyko’s Dudley, UK. These photos were then allegedly used to complete a “similar piece of machinery” for China’s Haohau South China Guilin Rubber Company Limited. The photos reportedly depict Goodyear’s proprietary “Swab Down System” which is used in the production of giant earthmover tyres to wrap rubber around a cable.
According to Knoxville News Sentinel, Roberts was the director of engineering at Wyko Tire Technology’s Greenback, USA site and supervised engineer Howley at the time the duo visited the Goodyear plant. Assistant US Attorney Greg Weddle alleges the pair got into the plant by claiming to service some Wyko-manufactured equipment. Howley reportedly confessed when the FBI later raided Wyko, although he now maintains his innocence.
The defence said sealing the photos could lead jurors to conclude the photos show trade secrets. Their argument centres on the notion that they do not, Knoxville News Sentinel reported. However, Judge Shirley ruled in favour of the prosecution’s motion to keep the details secret. “A certain absurdity exists in requiring Goodyear to publicly disclose the trade secrets at issue in a prosecution of the alleged theft and disclosure of those same trade secrets,” he wrote.
Wyko is not itself accused in the rare case of alleged industrial espionage. According to local news reports, neither Roberts nor Howley are still employed there.
According to the original indictment, the charges include one count of conspiracy to commit theft of trade secrets, seven counts of theft of trade secrets, three counts of wire fraud and one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud. If convicted of all charges, the defendants each face a maximum of 150 years in prison and US$2.75 million in fines.