An attorney representing a former Goldman Sachs programmer accused of stealing the firm’s computer code told a jury in New York that although his client had violated a confidentiality agreement, he should not be found guilty of a crime.

Sergey Aleynikov, a dual citizen of the US and Russia, is accused of stealing hundreds of thousands of lines of code for Goldmans high-frequency trading platform in 2009. Prosecutors say that he stole the code before leaving his $400,000 per year job at Goldman in order to take a $1.2 million per year position with a rival firm.

Aleynikov is charged with unlawful use of secret scientific material and unlawful duplication of computer-related material — both felonies.

A Prior Conviction

Aleynikov was convicted in 2010 of violating the federal National Stolen Property Act and the Economic Espionage Act. He was sentenced to eight years, but ending up spending just over a year in federal prison as a result of his conviction.

The verdict in that case was overturned by the Second Circuit Court of Appeals in 2012 and Aleynikov went free. New federal trade secret laws were passed in the wake of the court’s decision.

A few months after Aleynikov went free, Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance brought state law criminal charges against him.

Last June, the New York Supreme Court threw out physical evidence obtained by the FBI and statements made by Aleynikov to the FBI upon his arrest. Aleynikov sued the FBI in February, charging that the agency violated his fourth amendment rights.

During opening arguments in the New York criminal case, Aleynikov’s lawyer admitted that his client violated Goldman’s confidentiality policy but said that that was a civil matter rather than a crime.

The case is The People of the State of New York v. Sergey Aleynikov, case number 004447/2012, and it is pending in the Supreme Court of the State of New York, County of New York.

Civil or Criminal?

Aleynikov’s history is discussed in detail in this article by Michael Lewis in Vanity Fair.

Lewis, like other commentators, has questioned whether employers “overstep” when charging former employees with trade secret crimes.