April 29, 2015 / 3:20 PM / 5 years ago

Ex-Goldman programmer's fate back with jury after two jurors exit

NEW YORK (Reuters) - A former Goldman Sachs computer programmer accused of stealing its trading code may yet see his criminal case come to an end after the judge on Wednesday removed two jurors after a conflict between the two marred deliberations.

A male juror and a female juror left the state Supreme Court in Manhattan on the orders of Justice Daniel Conviser shortly after 2 p.m. on the fifth full day of deliberations.

The 10 remaining jurors spent the rest of the afternoon weighing whether Sergey Aleynikov broke New York state law when he copied Goldman computer code in June 2009, as he prepared to leave the bank for a high-frequency trading startup in Chicago. They did not reach a verdict and will resume Thursday morning.

A decision to convict must be unanimous, and the judge said letting 10 jurors proceed amounted to “uncharted territory.” The three alternate jurors were also discharged after the attorneys agreed to go ahead with 10.

But Kevin Marino, Aleynikov’s lawyer, said his client agreed to the smaller jury and would no longer seek a mistrial.

Marino said Aleynikov, who was initially arrested in July 2009, wants to “see the case through to completion.”

It remains unclear what prompted the bizarre dispute on Tuesday between the two discharged jurors.

A female juror had accused a male colleague of trying to poison her food, and on Tuesday Marino mentioned that the conflict may have involved an avocado sandwich.

Conviser said on Wednesday that the female juror had also threatened some kind of legal action against the male juror, who had separately asked his own boss about hiring a lawyer. Conviser did not think the female juror’s allegations had any basis in reality.

Aleynikov, 45, was previously tried and convicted in federal court over the code theft.

He served nearly a year in prison before a federal appeals court overturned his conviction in February 2012, saying the federal anti-espionage law he was convicted of violating did not cover his activity.

Six months later, however, Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance brought his own criminal case, charging Aleynikov with violating New York state law through the unlawful duplication of computer-related material.

In his closing argument last week, Marino did not dispute that Aleynikov copied code from Goldman’s high-frequency trading software for his own use, but said prosecutors failed to prove that this violated the state laws under which he was charged.

Writing by Jonathan Stempel; Editing by Jonathan Oatis and Ted Botha

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