PITTSBURGH – A retired corporate researcher should undergo a mental competency examination before a federal magistrate determines whether prosecutors can move forward with a case accusing him of stealing trade secrets worth hundreds of millions of dollars for a Chinese company, a defense attorney said.
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Monday's preliminary exam and detention hearing was postponed until May 26 at the request of Lee Rothman, the defense attorney for Thomas Rukavina, 62, of Plum.
"It's obvious to me that my client has some mental health issues, and that my ability to talk to him is compromised by what I believe is a mental health issue," Rothman told The Associated Press.
Rukavina appeared before a magistrate on Friday after the FBI arrested him on a charge of stealing trade secrets from PPG Industries Inc. related to plastic windows that can be used on aircraft and high-speed trains.
U.S. Magistrate Cynthia Reed Eddy must decide later this month whether there's enough evidence to support the criminal complaint, which would then allow federal prosecutors in Pittsburgh to seek an indictment. She must also decide whether he should continue to be jailed until the charges are resolved.
Rothman said he must be able to speak in more detail with Rukavina.
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Rothman met with Rukavina twice over the weekend but said "his present state of affairs has made it difficult for me to get answers I need to properly represent him." Rukavina appears to be suffering from anxiety, depression and insomnia, his attorney said.
The key question at the preliminary exam will be whether the information Rukavina is charged with stealing is protected by intellectual property rights.
PPG officials, who are cooperating with the investigation, have told the FBI that the stolen information is worth "hundreds of millions of dollars," and involves products under development since 2004, which amount to the "industry's first new transparent plastic in more than 50 years," according to the criminal complaint.
Rukavina retired in July 2012, but the FBI complaint said emails show he's been in contact with JTMG Co. of Jiangsu, China, since at least March 2013.
The Chinese company, which has not been criminally charged, makes glass for automotive and other specialty purposes.