Friday, December 3, 2021

Science Magazine on the Charles Lieber case:

Science has a pretty comprehensive review of the state of affairs before the upcoming Charles Lieber trial, including a helpful notation of the next upcoming 6 trials for the DOJ's China Initiative. Here is some legal analysis of the letter from the reporter, Jeff Mervis: 

For Lieber to be found guilty of lying to DOD and NIH, the prosecution must prove he knew his statements were false and that the information was germane to his grants from those agencies. In Anming Hu’s case, U.S. District Judge Thomas Varlan found Hu hadn’t intentionally misled NASA. Varlan also said noted university officials had assured Hu that NASA rules on working with China didn’t apply to his research project and found that NASA had gotten the research it paid for, rejecting the government’s argument that Hu had defrauded the agency.

The tax and banking charges against Lieber—which were added several months after his arrest—and are less open to interpretation. “You either check the box or you don’t” on the relevant paperwork, said one lawyer familiar with the case who requested anonymity. The lawyer speculates that the government added the charges to induce Lieber to negotiate a plea deal (which can happen at any time). “You don’t always criminalize [those banking violations],” the attorney says, “but it increases the pressure on a defendant to plead guilty to something.”

It seems to me to be a bit risky for Dr. Lieber to be taking this risk, especially when there are clear contradictions between his statements to law enforcement and his actual actions. (Of course, this is why people shouldn't talk to federal agents without an attorney.) It will be interesting to understand if a federal jury would be more or less sympathetic to him or to Dr. Hu. 

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