A former Boeing employee who leaked company documents to reporters has agreed to try to get them back and, if necessary, will shift from whistle-blower to witness for the company he once claimed was manufacturing unsafe airplanes, according to an agreement he signed Thursday.

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A former Boeing employee who leaked company documents to reporters has agreed to try to get them back and, if necessary, will shift from whistle-blower to witness for the company he once claimed was manufacturing unsafe airplanes, according to an agreement he signed Thursday.

In exchange for his cooperation with police and Boeing, Gerald Eastman will not face a retrial on charges of computer trespass and in six months, the case against him will be dismissed. If he violates the agreement, a judge can find him guilty of at least 10 misdemeanor counts, each with a penalty of up to a year in jail, based on facts Eastman has already agreed are accurate.

The agreement ends a highly charged prosecution in which a defiant Eastman, who was fired after 18 years at the company — much of it as a quality-control inspector — insisted he was trying to protect the public from fraud and lapsed safety inspections at the airplane manufacturer. His first trial on felony computer trespass charges ended in a hung jury in April, and prosecutors have been moving toward retrying the case.

Boeing pressed hard for a second trial, and throughout the case the company took a strong interest in the prosecution. Hundreds of e-mails were exchanged between the King County prosecutor’s office and Boeing lawyers as the case progressed, according to documents obtained by The Seattle Times.

Senior Deputy Prosecutor Scott Peterson said the agreement — which was proposed by Eastman — was designed to “undo the damage he’s done.”

“We don’t think another trial is warranted. We have bigger fish to fry,” Peterson said. “He wants to make amends and assist Boeing in recovering their property.”

Eastman, 46, of Kent, has said he was the source for documents cited in 16 articles that appeared in The Seattle Times between 2003 and 2006.

What Eastman has to do is this: Spend up to 16 hours with police and Boeing investigators telling them everything about the documents he took. Eastman’s computer contained more than 8,000 company documents, according to court papers. He must show the investigators how he accessed them and swear that no others were taken.

Then, Eastman must make a “good-faith effort to retrieve and to assist law enforcement and Boeing in retrieving leaked documents from The Seattle Times” or anyone else he gave them to.

Eastman agrees that he will testify for the company in any legal proceedings — criminal or civil — that may arise from the company’s efforts to retrieve the documents.

Seattle Times Executive Editor David Boardman had no comment.

Ramona Brandes, Eastman’s public defender, said the agreement was a “fabulous resolution” to a difficult case.

Eastman told the court: “I understand it’s the best we could get.”

On his blog, www.thelastinspector.com, Eastman meanwhile has continued to accuse the company and federal and state prosecutors of conspiring to silence him. The agreement includes a series of facts Eastman has agreed could be used by a judge in a nonjury trial on the misdemeanor criminal trespass charges if he fails to live up to it.

In the document, Eastman acknowledges that his most serious accusation — that Boeing employees deliberately falsified documents and endangered air safety — was not supported by the Federal Aviation Administration.

He also says that in 2002 he threatened the company with a lawsuit over its inspection policies and requested “a cash settlement to resolve his perceived harassment.

“In exchange, Eastman offered to keep quiet about his concerns as long as Boeing addressed them,” the settlement document says. “Boeing declined his offer.”

The following year, the first of a series of articles “revealing sensitive internal information about Boeing aircraft design and business plans” appeared in The Times, the document says. Eastman has said he provided information.

Eastman and his attorney have complained about Boeing’s involvement in the case.

“They were more involved than any victim in any case I’ve handled since I became a public defender in 1996,” Brandes said. “Boeing lawyers sat in on every day of the trial. They sat through every one of my interviews. They even objected to my questions.”

E-mails obtained by The Seattle Times reveal extensive Boeing involvement in the pretrial preparations, deepening interest as the case progressed and dismay over the April mistrial.

They show that Boeing lawyers sat in on police interviews, suggested language and case law to be included in court filings, and complained that Eastman was posting to his blog when he was supposed to be in court.

“Wouldn’t that be something remarkable to the court?” Boeing lawyer Vanessa Lee wrote to Peterson during the trial.

Lee also worried that Eastman was getting information about her through discussions between Peterson and Brandes.

“It probably would be safest if nothing is said from now on about me or Boeing — at least til it’s all over,” Lee wrote.

Peterson said the detailed exchanges with Boeing’s lawyers — a total of 340 through the end of the trial in April — were “not at all unusual” for a complex criminal fraud prosecution.

“There was no pressure from Boeing. In fact, when they came to me with this, it was the other way around — I was pressuring them for information to prove this case. I needed the evidence and I asked for it,” he said. “All of my cases are like this.”

The e-mails also show that Peterson was leaning toward retrying the case, while his boss, Prosecuting Attorney Dan Satterberg, and others in the criminal division wanted it resolved without a new trial.

Lee declined to comment. Boeing spokesman Peter Conte said Boeing “did not see the documents” before Eastman agreed to the deal.

“Boeing is pleased Eastman has agreed to cooperate,” Conte said.

Eastman has complained that he was being pressured to take the deal by federal prosecutors, who in recent weeks had also expressed interest in the case. The U.S. Attorney’s Office said in a letter that it would not prosecute Eastman if he agreed to the deal.

Mike Carter: 206-464-3706 or mcarter@seattletimes.com

Steve Miletich: 206-464-3302 or smiletich@seattletimes.com