The COVID-19 pandemic has prompted the postponement of a federal court trial involving a former Eastman Chemical Company and Coca-Cola employee accused of economic espionage for allegedly stealing more than $119 million in trade secrets.

At a status hearing earlier this month in U.S. District Court in Greeneville, a jury trial date of July 21 was continued to Sept. 1.

An order from Senior U.S. District Judge J. Ronnie Greer continuing the trial date references the “surging active COVID-19 cases in Northeast Tennessee” and the “dramatic rise of new COVID-19 cases within the court’s jury pool region.”

The trial involves complex issues and is anticipated to last between 10 to 15 days.

“The court believes it would not be in the best interests of them public to hold a multi-week jury trial,” Greer wrote in his order.

Xiaorong You, also known as Shannon You, 57, was indicted in February 2019 by a federal grand jury sitting in Greeneville for conspiracy to steal trade secrets related to a flavor-preserving process that coats the inside of cans. You was also indicted on seven counts of theft of trade secrets and one count of wire fraud.

“The court concludes more time is reasonably necessary for the protection of the public and also for counsel to prepare adequately for the trial itself,” Greer wrote.

Greer declared the new trial date set by granting of the continuance is considered “excludable time” under the Speedy Trial Act.

“The ends of justice served by the granting of this continuance outweigh the best interests of the public and defendant in a speedy trial,” the order states.

You, who was born in China but was naturalized as a U.S. citizen in 1992, entered a not guilty plea.

Also named in the 2019 indictment for conspiracy to steal trade secrets is 62-year-old Liu Xiangchen, 61, of Shandong Province, China.

The indictment alleges that You, Liu, and a third co-conspirator believed to be in China “formulated a plan in which You would exploit her employment with the two American employers to steal trade secrets and provide the information for the economic benefit of the Chinese company that Liu managed, which would manufacture and profit from products developed using the stolen trade secrets.”

You, who listed an address in Lansing, Michigan, remains in the custody of the U.S. Marshals Service. You is represented by former federal prosecutor and Greeneville lawyer Corey B. Shipley, along with Johnson City lawyer Thomas C. Jessee.

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