Friday, September 5, 2008

Tennessee Professor (Not in a Law School) Convicted

On September 4, 2008, in a very interesting (and sad) case about the U.S. export controls, a Knoxville jury convicted retired University of Tennessee Professor J. Reece Roth on eighteen counts, including violations of the Arms Export Control Act for permitting foreign graduate students (one from China and one from Iran) to have access to information relating to an Air Force project on the use of plasma technologies for unmanned aerial vehicles and conspiracy. The Arms Export Control Act prohibits the export of defense-related materials, including the technical data, to a foreign national or a foreign nation, without the required United States government license. This was a precedent-setting case .

According to a report on the Knoxville News Sentinel’s website, the jury took less than 8 hours to reach a decision.  They considered as important evidence of guilt a set of notes that divided the work between an American graduate student and the Chinese graduate student in order to keep export-controlled technical data away from the graduate student. When this arrangement impeded progress on the project, the students were allowed to share data.

Assistant U.S. Attorney, Will Mackie, stated after the conviction: "National security issues matter and should be everyone's concern, even among those in an academic setting. We believe the vast majority of universities and professors are careful with what they're doing. By bringing this case, we're trying to underline when things go wrong, we're paying attention."

The maximum punishment for the conspiracy conviction is 5 years imprisonment and a $250,000 fine. The maximum penalty for each of the Arms Export Control Act offenses is 10 years imprisonment, a criminal fine of $ 1,000,000, and a mandatory special assessment of $100 for each offense. Dr. Roth's sentencing has been set for January 7, 2009, at 1:30 p.m., in the United States District Court in Knoxville.


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