By Brendan Pierson
NEW YORK (Reuters) - The criminal case against a former Goldman Sachs computer programmer accused of stealing the investment bank's trading code may end in a mistrial after Wednesday's removal of two jurors whose conflict, including a charge of food poisoning, had marred the deliberations.
Justice Daniel Conviser removed the jurors, a man and a woman, as their colleagues were in their fifth full day of deliberations in New York state Supreme Court in Manhattan over the fate of Sergey Aleynikov, the former programmer.
Conviser said he may decide by midafternoon on whether to declare a mistrial, seat alternate jurors or let the 10 remaining jurors try to reach a verdict.
Aleynikov's attorney, Kevin Marino, requested a mistrial on Tuesday.
It is unclear what prompted the bizarre dispute between the two jurors.
The female juror had accused her male colleague of trying to poison her food. According to Conviser, she had also threatened some kind of legal action against the male juror, who had separately asked his own boss about hiring a lawyer.
A mistrial would extend Aleynikov's prolonged foray through the U.S. legal system.
Prosecutors charged the dual citizen of Russia and the United States with stealing Goldman Sachs Group Inc computer code in June 2009 as he prepared to leave the bank for a high-frequency trading startup in Chicago.
Aleynikov, 45, was previously tried and convicted in federal court over the same activity, and served nearly a year in prison before having his conviction overturned in February 2012.
Six months later, however, Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance brought his own criminal case under New York state law.
In his closing argument last week, defense attorney Marino did not dispute that Aleynikov copied code from Goldman's high-frequency trading software for his own use, but said that prosecutors failed to prove that Aleynikov broke the state laws under which he was charged.
(Writing by Jonathan Stempel; Editing by Jonathan Oatis and Ted Botha)