Yeong Lin, 70, of Fountain Valley, Calif., pleaded guilty in June 2007 to a federal charge of theft of trade secrets. Prosecutors said sentencing was postponed numerous times over the last three years largely because of defense delays and Lin's medical and long-distance travel difficulties.
U.S. District Judge Charles Siragusa cited Lin's age, his remorse and his lack of a criminal history in lowering his sentence from a maximum five-year term. But he told Lin that while his admissions entitled him to a sentence reduction "for acceptance of responsibility . I have no doubt that you know the difference between right and wrong."
"I'm deeply regretful for being involved in such an experience," Lin told the judge. "It causes shame for me and my family."
Lin was fined $1,000 and ordered to surrender to prison officials in California later this winter.
While working as a consultant for Taiwan-based PicVue Electronics a decade ago, Lin put PicVue officials in contact with a Corning employee, Jonathan Sanders, who offered drawings he had illegally obtained from a Corning glassmaking plant in Harrodsburg, Ky., prosecutors said.
The materials, Corning got back after it sued PicVue, were valued at between $60 million and $80 million. Corning, a specialty glassmaker based in western New York, accepted a $1.5 million settlement payment from PicVue in 2005.
Prosecutors said PicVue, which later declared bankruptcy, had intended to use the technology to manufacture thin-filter-transistor, liquid crystal display glass and compete with Corning.
Sanders was fired from the Kentucky plant, pleaded guilty in 2006 and got a four-year sentence and a $20,000 fine. He admitted stealing the blueprints of Corning's LCD glassmaking process and selling them to PicVue for $34,000 in 2000.
Defense attorney James Harrington described Lin as a minor player in the theft and noted that no PicVue officials in Taiwan were charged even though at least one of them owns property in the United States.
Corning is the world's biggest maker of LCD glass for flat-screen televisions and computers. The ultra-thin glass accounts for the bulk of its profits.
Sanders, of Lawrenceburg, Ky., said he found the documents at the Harrodsburg plant in 1999 in a hopper containing confidential material that was to be destroyed.
PicVue engineers took digital photographs of the blueprints, which described a proprietary glassmaking process called "fusion draw," and downloaded the pictures to a disk that was taken to Taiwan, court records showed. The original blueprints were then destroyed.
Corning learned about the theft in 2001 and notified the FBI, which began an investigation that led to the arrests of Sanders and Lin in 2005.