In a dramatic development, the Southern District U.S. Attorney’s office moved yesterday to dismiss all criminal charges arising out of the Eaton v. Frisby case. The Government moved to dismiss with prejudice, which the court did, and which means the criminal case is ended and will never be pursued again.
The motion and order do not explain why this happened. I’ve been reading the docket lately. The case had been stayed for a couple of years while the civil cases were being resolved; the stay had been lifted and the court had set a trial for the fall.
In January, the Government had moved to lift the stay, noting that the defendants had met with both the local US Attorneys office and Justice Department officials in Washington to attempt to persuade the Government to drop the charges, and that both local and Washington officials had declined to do so. This made the (at least on the record) sudden decision to drop the charges all the more remarkable.
To refresh folks recollection, the criminal case resulted after Eaton had convinced the Justice Department to bring a theft of trade secrets prosecution against former Eaton engineers who had gone to work for Frisby.
Because I thought some explanation was needed that would take a fair amount of time, I had been holding material for a post about the Eaton cases because of a couple of recent developments– the Fall trial setting in the criminal cases, and, most particularly, another sanction-related order out of the Hinds County circuit court based on the fact that Eaton still is having trouble coming clean with the court! Phillip Thomas of Mississippi Litigation Review had written about the order:
The article covers Hinds Circuit Judge Jeff Weills’ Order requiring multiple Eaton employees—including CEO Alexander Cutler—to explain why Eaton did not previously produce emails from Ed Peters that discussed his communications with Judge Bobby DeLaughter about the case.
You can read more and read the order at Thomas’s blog.
I suppose I should note that Eaton and its minions are still asserting they have never done anything wrong, and that the dismissal of the criminal charges is an injustice. These protestations have gone rather frayed at the edges, at best.