The Empire has struck back, all right.

Nearly seven months after movie scoopster Harry Knowles posted an early-bird review of Star Wars: Episode II--Attack of the Clones on his Website, a former Lucasfilm employee has been arrested on suspicion of stealing Episode II images, storyboards and video files, and, according to one published report, questioned about supplying the critic with his early-bird review copy.

Shea O'Brien Foley, 30, was taken into custody October 8, in Burbank, California, where he works at NBC in the facilities department, authorities said.

Foley posted $200,000 bail and was apparently released Monday from Los Angeles County Jail, Marin County Deputy District Attorney Paul Haakenson said.

Haakenson declined comment on the case, now sealed by court order, noting only that Knowles himself is not a target of the criminal investigation.

Foley is expected to be arraigned on nine counts of grand theft and four counts of unlawful computer access at an as-yet unspecified date in Marin County, the Northern California base of operations for George Lucas' dream factories, including Lucasfilm and Industrial Light and Magic.

According to the Marin Independent Journal, Foley became the subject of an in-house investigation at Lucasfilm, where he worked as a production assistant, in mid-March after Knowles posted his Episode II review.

"I saw [Episode II] hours ago," Knowles wrote. "The 'how' of that will be a thing of mystery buried in a passed piece of paper from my book signing with a hotel, a room number and a time listed upon it. You don't want to know about that room or the person[s] in that room, you want to know about Episode Two."

But no-leak-tolerance Lucasfilm did want to know how Knowles got his paws on its film, at the time, still two months away from its May 16 release. The company deduced the footage must have come from an in-house source, the Independent Journal says. Foley came under scrutiny because of suspicious postings made under the screen name "Shay" on Star Wars chat rooms, the paper says.

Subsequent searches of Foley's office computer, his onetime Petaluma, California, residence and his mother's Irvine, California, home turned up: 2,000-plus Episode II digital images; "hundreds" of Episode II video files; 113 storyboard sketches (featuring genuine Lucas note scribblings); and, the Star Wars franchise's entire sound-effects library (as stored on 19 CD-ROM discs), among other items, the Independent Journal reports, citing the arrest warrant.

Additionally, Foley handed over to his Lucasfilm bosses "numerous items," including CDs that essentially featured the work-in-progress Episode II, the paper says. Foley denied being Knowles' inside source.

The value of the allegedly stolen items was estimated to be at least $450,000.

Foley was fired from Lucasfilm in April, according to the Independent Journal.

Via email, Foley said Tuesday he could not comment on the case until resolved. Lucasfilm similarly declined comment.

On his site, Knowles wrote that Foley was not the mole who got him the Episode II tape.

"Shea O'Brien Foley is someone I've never met, heard from or been contacted by," Knowles wrote, adding that the "person(s)" who supplied him the tape has/have not been nabbed.

(Updated 10/16/02 at 12:00 p.m. PT.)

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