April 1, 2015 / 5:08 AM / 2 years ago

U.S. judge refuses to delay code theft trial for ex-Goldman programmer

Former Goldman Sachs computer programmer Sergey Aleynikov (2nd L) waits to appear in Manhattan Criminal Court at New York, August 9, 2012.Steven Hirsch/Pool

NEW YORK (Reuters) - A New York judge on Wednesday rejected a request from prosecutors to delay the scheduled trial of former Goldman Sachs Group Inc (GS.N) computer programmer Sergey Aleynikov, who is charged with stealing code from the investment bank.

Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Daniel Conviser ordered the trial to move forward immediately in the long-running case that inspired Michael Lewis' best-selling book "Flash Boys" about high-frequency trading.

A prosecutor, Assistant District Attorney David Holmes, asked the judge in court on Wednesday for more time to ensure witnesses would be available. Conviser rebuffed the request, but said he would be flexible about the trial schedule to accommodate witnesses.

Aleynikov's attorney, Kevin Marino, said in court that the prosecution's request for a delay was extraordinary because it was so late and unfair to his client.

Aleynikov, 45, was tried and convicted once, in federal court, over a 2009 episode in which Goldman says he stole computer code as he prepared to leave for a high-frequency trading startup.

Aleynikov went to prison after his first trial, when a jury in federal court convicted him of violating a corporate espionage law. An appeals court threw out the conviction, saying the anti-espionage law did not apply and setting him free after about a year.

About six months after the federal appeals court set Aleynikov free, Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance revived the case in state court and charged him in August 2012 with unlawful duplication of computer-related material.

The U.S. Constitution generally bars prosecuting someone twice for the same crime, a concept known as double jeopardy, but the prohibition is not absolute. A Manhattan state judge ruled in 2013 that New York prosecutors could pursue Aleynikov even though the federal case collapsed.

Aleynikov faces 1-1/2 to four years in prison if convicted a second time. His sentence after the first trial was eight years.

The computer programmer moved to the United States from Russia in 1990 and remains a dual citizen. He joined Goldman in 2007. The startup he was planning to join was Teza Technologies in Chicago.

Aleynikov scored a victory last June when Justice Ronald Zweibel, who previously presided over the case, ruled that prosecutors cannot use a laptop and other evidence obtained for the federal case.

The case is People v. Aleynikov, New York State Supreme Court, New York County, No. 60353/2012.

Reporting by Brendan Pierson; Editing by David Ingram and Lisa Shumaker

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