KNOXVILLE, Tenn. -- A federal appeals court has upheld the conviction of a retired University of Tennessee professor for passing military secrets. Plasma physics expert J. Reece Roth was found guilty in September 2008 of allowing research assistants from China and Iran to access sensitive data from a U.S. Air Force contract, in violation of the Arms Export Control Act.
The case marked the first time the government used the act to crack down on the distribution of restricted data to foreigners in a university setting. Roth also was convicted of taking sensitive documents to China in his laptop. He was sentenced to four years in prison. Roth, who was a minority partner in a company that included a former student, argued that the data was improperly classified as "defense articles." The 6th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Wednesday from Cincinnati.