Saturday, February 11, 2012

Suicide in DuPont/China Industrial Espionage Case

E-mails of my previous post on the DuPont industrial espionage case were kicked back, apparently because I referenced a randy site and/or used three xs to substitute for the names of the people named in the indictment.

At the time I wrote:

As an amusing sideline, one of the top Google hits for [my piece at Asia Times] was on [a site promoting strip clubs in Allentown], a site which, as you might expect, promotes strip clubs in Allentown, PA, previous home base for the Bethlehem Iron & Steel behemoth and now a piece of post-industrial fodder for Billy Joel ballads and the sex service industry.

I realized that the good people in Allentown had picked up on the piece because I had substituted [three x’s] for the names of people named in the indictment.  It is one of the melancholy privileges of the Internet and social media to be able to look at the personal Christmas pictures of somebody facing decades in jail on a charge of industrial espionage, and imagine his honor, his reputation, and his future evaporating before one’s eyes.  So, I decided, let somebody else strip away his last veneer of privacy.  Maybe my pity was misplaced; we’ll see.  

Today I read via Reuters:

In another development, Timothy Spitler, a former DuPont employee who consulted for ---, took his own life last week, say multiple people familiar with the situation. Spitler supplied material information to prosecutors in the investigation, these people say. A lawyer for Spitler did not respond to inquiries on Wednesday.

Spitler, by the way, wasn’t named in the indictment I referenced, presumably because he was cooperating.

The case, and the handling of defendants and cooperating/uncooperative witnesses, is in the hands of US Attorney Melinda Haag.

In early February she filed a motion with the court to block the release on bail of one of the principals in the case, who has been incarcerated for several months.

In attacking the credibility of the detainee--and undermine his protestations of not constituting a flight risk-- Haag (or, more likely the office functionary who wrote the brief for her signature) adopted a tone of breezy contempt, typified by this passage:

The FBI located in a search of the ---’ residence a telephone list on which the names and telephone numbers of these and other PRC officials and business leaders appear. It would be one thing to fabricate or exaggerate official contacts in a letter to try to get a job (more on that later), but it seems altogether unlikely that one would fabricate a corresponding telephone list to keep around the house. What would be the purpose of that? To impress yourself while sitting alone in the home office and spinning through the Rolodex? Obviously not.

The brief concludes, "Respectfully submitted, Melinda Haag".  Yes.  Respectfully.

I suspect that the first response of the prosecutor's office to Spitler's suicide will be to step up the pressure on witnesses in order to justify its previous tactics, and also assert the enormity of the transgressions that have resulted in Spitler's suicide.

People make disastrously wrong choices in their lives and I don't like to see the worst case scenario play out.  It reminds me the line Ross Macdonald gave to Lew Archer, when Archer was asked if he had a secret passion for justice.  No, he replied, I have a secret passion for mercy.  But justice is what keeps happening to people.

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