AP: An engineer from Iran was convicted Tuesday of illegally accessing a protected computer in the United States to use training software he obtained at a former job at a nuclear power plant in Arizona.
The Associated Press
By CHRIS KAHN
PHOENIX (AP) — An engineer from Iran was convicted Tuesday of illegally accessing a protected computer in the United States to use training software he obtained at a former job at a nuclear power plant in Arizona.
The jury deadlocked on two other counts against Mohammad Reza Alavi: stealing protected software and illegally exporting the software in violation of the U.S. trade embargo with Iran. A retrial was set for Aug. 1.
Defense attorney David Laufman said he plans to file a motion asking U.S. District Judge Neil Wake to overturn the guilty verdict.
"The government failed to meet its burden of proof on the main charges in this case," Laufman said.
Alavi, 50, a naturalized U.S. citizen who was born in Iran, ran afoul of the law in 2006, prosecutors said. That's when he quit his job at the Palo Verde Nuclear Generating Station west of Phoenix and brought a laptop to Iran containing training software with design schematics and other details of the plant.
Officials at Palo Verde, the nation's largest nuclear plant, have said the information Alavi obtained did not pose a security threat.
Prosecutors told jurors that Alavi knew he was breaking federal law when he brought the software to Iran and then downloaded codes from the manufacturer to use it there.
"He took it for his own selfish benefit," prosecutor David A. Pimsner told jurors on Tuesday. "He thought it would help him get a job in the nuclear industry in Iran."
Iran has been pursuing a nuclear enrichment program in defiance of a U.N. Security Council ban. Tehran says the program is intended only to produce energy, not develop weapons as the U.S. and many of its allies fear.
Laufman told jurors that Alavi was unaware of the trade restrictions between the two countries and that he used the software in Iran simply because he was proud of his 17 years of work at Palo Verde.
"He wanted to retain a piece of his life and show it off to his family," he said.
Alavi faces up to five years in prison and could be fined up to a $250,000 for his conviction on a count of illegally accessing a computer. A sentencing hearing has not been set and Laufman said Alavi wasn't taken into custody.
Authorities arrested Alavi more than a year ago in Los Angeles when he arrived on a flight from Iran. Laufman said Alavi had returned to the United States to be present for the birth of his son.
The Palo Verde nuclear plant, about 50 miles west of downtown Phoenix, supplies electricity to some 4 million customers in Arizona, New Mexico, Texas and California.