Accused Software Thief Freed By Appeals Court

Feb 21 2012 | 1:21am ET

A former Goldman Sachs group programmer's conviction for stealing the bank's high-frequency trading software has been thrown out by a federal appeals court.

Sergey Aleynikov was freed Thursday after serving almost one year of an eight-year prison sentence. He was convicted in December 2010 of theft of trade secrets for allegedly having dowloaded parts of Goldman's HFT code on his last day at the firm in 2009 to bring with him to a new job at Teza Technologies, the controversial firm founded by several former Citadel Investment Group traders.

The U.S. Court of Appeals in Manhattan did not immediately explain its decision to vacate Aleynikov's conviction—it said a formal opinion would follow—but during oral arguments in the case on Feb. 16, the three-judge panel expressed skepticism of Aleynikov's prosecution under the Economic Espionage Act.

Nor do the appeals court judges seem to think much of the government's chances in the matter going forward, agreeing to allow the U.S. Attorney's Office in Manhattan to seek a rehearing of the appeal after initially barring any challenge to its decision.

"Justice occasionally works," Aleynikov said after he was released on his own recognizance.

"It's justice because Sergey Aleynikov did not commit either of the crimes with which he was charged," his lawyer, Kevin Marino, said. "The government's attempt to stretch this criminal federal statute beyond all recognition resulted in a grave injustice that put Sergey Aleynikov in prison for a year."

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