ALBANY — Jury selection is scheduled to begin Thursday in the federal trial of a former General Electric engineer accused of stealing trade secrets from GE Power in Schenectady.
Xiaoqing Zheng of Niskayuna was arrested in 2018 on 14 charges of theft of trade secrets, economic espionage, conspiracy to commit both and making false statements to investigators.
Zheng is alleged to have worked with a relative by marriage in China to accomplish thefts of technology for gas and steam turbines.
Zheng’s defense attorneys had sought to block or limit certain testimony and evidence; U.S. District Judge Mae D’Agostino on Feb. 18 rejected many of those motions:
- An expert witness will be allowed to testify on economic and technical development efforts by the Chinese government and its relationship with certain companies.
- Another expert witness will be allowed to testify for the prosecution despite the defense’s claim that federal agents had improper interaction with an expert witness for the defense.
- Prosecutors are not constrained in their references and claims about steganography, a technique to hide a data file within another data file. Zheng is alleged to have concealed data within digital photos he emailed to himself.
- Prosecutors can present video evidence from a GE computer assigned to Zheng.
- D’Agostino partially rejected the defense’s request to block use of what it considers prejudicial terms such as “trade secret” and “intellectual property”; prosecutors can elicit testimony from witnesses that includes such terms in certain circumstances, she wrote, but she will reserve judgment in others.
- The judge did grant the defense’s request to block mention of Zheng’s transfer of 19,020 files from his GE computer to a USB external storage device; they were deleted before anyone could review them.
- Prosecutors can make reference to GE’s discovery of approximately 400 encrypted files on his workplace desktop computer in 2017; the discovery led GE to install monitoring software on the computer.
- Prosecutors will be allowed to tell jurors that $50,000 in cash was seized from Zheng’s 8 Cephalonia Drive home during a search by federal agents in 2018, some of it hidden in a hole in the wall. Zheng’s statements during an interview with agents directly tie the money to central aspects of the case against him, D’Agostino wrote.
The entire trial is expected to last about three weeks.