We learned back in May this year that Apple filed a lawsuit against its former materials lead, Simon Lancaster for allegedly stealing trade secrets about “Project X,” leaking them to the media, and more. Now in new legal documents, it’s surfaced that the Santa Clara District Attorney’s Office has an open criminal investigation into Lancaster regarding Apple’s claims.
Another legal proceeding in the Apple vs Lancaster case is set for November 18, 2021, and ahead of that, fresh public court documents seen by 9to5Mac have revealed new details.
The day after the parties’ Initial Case Management Conference, the Santa Clara County District Attorney’s Office first informed Lancaster’s counsel that he was the subject of a criminal investigation (the “Criminal Investigation”) into the alleged theft of trade secrets. (Declaration of Scott R. Raber, dated October 7, 2021 (“Raber Decl.”), ¶¶ 4-5; Olmos Decl., ¶ 2).
The criminal investigation included search warrants by the state looking into Lancaster’s online accounts and two of his computers.
Subsequently, Lancaster also learned that at least four search warrants had previously been executed by the State with respect to certain online accounts held by Lancaster. (Olmos Decl.,¶¶ 3-4). The warrants also sought forensic images of information contained on two computers used by Lancaster. Id, ¶ 4, Ex. A. The warrant applications asserted probable cause to believe the information sought was stolen or embezzled, or evidenced the commission of a felony. Id., Ex. A at 4. The Santa Clara County District Attorney’s Office has also assigned a veteran prosecutor to the case. (Olmos Decl., ¶ 3).
For his part, Lancaster has asked the court to stop the proceedings of Apple’s civil lawsuit “pending resolution of the Santa Clara Investigation.”
Lancaster seeks to stay these proceedings pending resolution of the Santa Clara Investigation. A court “has broad discretion to stay proceedings as an incident to its power to control its own docket.” Thissel v. Murphy, 2017 WL 6945402, at *1 (N.D. Cal. Apr. 4, 2017) (quoting Clinton v. Jones, 520 U.S. 681, 706 (1997)). A court’s decision “whether to stay civil proceedings in the face of a parallel criminal proceeding should be made ‘in light of the particular circumstances and competing interests involved in the case,’ including the ‘extent to which the defendant’s fifth amendment rights are implicated.’”
Essentially, Lancaster and his attorneys are arguing that continuing with the civil lawsuit Apple brought against him during the criminal investigation could hinder his Fifth Amendment rights.
The primary consideration on this motion to stay is the defendant’s Fifth Amendment rights and whether those rights “will be implicated by discovery and disclosures required in the civil action.” Fed. Ins. Co. v. Laney, 2013 WL 594267, at *3 (N.D. Cal. Feb. 14, 2013). Where, as here, the issues in the two proceedings are essentially the same, the defendant’s Fifth Amendment rights “will be implicated.”
So he’s asking for the Apple suit to be paused and for the criminal investigation to be settled first.
While Lancaster has previously stated he’s not guilty of Apple’s major allegations, the situation remains quite muddy as he did admit to talking to the press and asking for favorable stories of a start-up he invested in.
Check out all the background details in our initial coverage:
We’ll be keeping an eye on the developments around this to see how things shake out.
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