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Judge rules to keep Eaton charges

JACKSON — A federal judge has refused to dismiss criminal charges five former Eaton Aerospace engineers in a trade secrets case.

Assistant U.S. Attorney John Dowdy tells The Clarion-Ledger that once a civil case involving the former employees is done, the criminal trial will be held.

In a seven-page order issued in March, U.S. District Judge William Barbour Jr. let stand the latest indictment of two counts of possession of trade secrets and one count of conspiracy to defraud the United States.

No trial date has been set for Rodney Case, Kevin Clark, Mike Fulton, Douglas Murphy and James Ward.

In 2008, Barbour threw out most of the charges from a 2006 indictment of the former engineers. He ruled the charges of conspiracy to defraud the United States, two counts of theft of trade secrets and two counts of wire fraud were unconstitutionally vague.

Barbour also dismissed two other counts involving theft of trade secrets, saying they were barred by the statute of limitations. That left only the remaining counts of conspiracy to defraud.

The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld Barbour’s decision.

In Jan. 2009, the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Jackson filed a new indictment changing the theft charge to possession of trade secrets. The indictment also included the conspiracy count.

Both the theft and possession charges carry a maximum 10 years in prison.

The five engineers initially were accused of stealing secrets from Jackson-based Eaton Aerospace and of taking them to Frisby Aerospace in Clemmons, N.C., where they started working in Jan. 2002. Frisby now is known as Triumph Actuation Systems.

Ed Blackmon Jr. of Canton, an attorney for the defense, has called the 2009 indictment a backhanded method by prosecutors to recapture dismissed charges.

“We believe they didn’t commit any crime,” Blackmon said.

Eaton has filed a $1 billion civil lawsuit against the engineers and Frisby. The case is on hold in Hinds County Circuit Court as Frisby attorneys try to prove whether then-presiding Judge Bobby DeLaughter was influenced by his former boss, Ed Peters, a former prosecutor.

Eaton denies it had any role in Peters allegedly trying to influence DeLaughter.

A judge has sealed most of the documents relating to the investigation of the Peters and DeLaughter’s connection.

Frisby has asked that the civil case be dismissed. Eaton is seeking to have the case sent to mediation. Circuit Judge Swan Yerger has not ruled on either request.


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