DAYTON -- A federal jury last week found Air Force veteran John M. Sember not guilty of one count of theft of government property.
A September 2014 complaint filed in Dayton's U.S. District Court had alleged that Sember either destroyed or took sensitive files from government computers after he was removed from a project for a defense contractor.
"He was very grateful that the jury paid attention to the evidence and reached the correct conclusion," said Sember's defense attorney, Lawrence Greger, who said that when Sember's employment ended he had a "vegetable soup" of data that didn't truly belong to any one party.
"He received data from various sources, some were from third parties, some that he created himself, some that came from the government, some that came from co-workers. And when you stirred it all together, what do you do with the data that is all mixed together in a pot of vegetable soup?" " Greger asked. "My conclusion is that the government's proof that they owned it was probably the weak link."
Assistant U.S. attorney Dwight Keller did not return a message seeking comment.
The original affidavit with the complaint stated that if the information was erased permanently, it could cost taxpayers 1,000 to 2,000 hours of labor and research worth an undetermined amount of money.
U.S. District Court Judge Thomas Rose did not allow some evidence into trial because it was taken from Sember's pickup and the search warrant only covered items in his Fairborn residence.
Greger said Sember -- honorably discharged from the Air Force as a captain -- is unemployed and that because of this case, his client lost his position at the University of Dayton. Sember was working for a stipend while a graduate student in electrical and computer engineering.
Greger said Sember turned down a plea offer to take his chances in a jury trial.