‘While I am relieved that my ordeal is over, I am mindful that this terribly misguided China Initiative continues to bring unwarranted fear to the academic community and other scientists still face charges,” Gang Chen said in a statement.
U.S. prosecutors dropped an indictment against an MIT professor charged a year ago with receiving federal grant money but failing to disclose his ties to China.
The reversal in the case of Gang Chen, a nanotechnology expert at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, comes as the Justice Department is reviewing its policy of investigating and prosecuting cases of economic espionage intended to benefit China.
“I want to thank the many friends, colleagues, and family that supported me during this terrible year,” Chen said in a statement. “While I am relieved that my ordeal is over, I am mindful that this terribly misguided China Initiative continues to bring unwarranted fear to the academic community and other scientists still face charges.”
The U.S. has prosecuted dozens of people for hacking, committing data and trade secret theft, and concealing ties to the Chinese government. The effort was especially vigorous under the Trump administration. But last year the government dropped cases and a judge ordered an acquittal because of law enforcement errors and prosecutorial overzealousness.
Chen was indicted last January, accused of defrauding the Department of Energy in getting a grant by making “false statements and material omissions” about his “professional experience, activities, sources of support, and awards” involving China.
Prosecutors concluded that their evidence on the relevance and impact of Chen’s alleged omissions no longer met their burden of proof at trial, according to a statement by U.S. Attorney Rachael Rollins in Boston.
“We have an obligation in every matter we pursue to continually examine the facts while being open to receiving and uncovering new information,” Rollins said. The dismissal was “is in the interests of justice,” she said.
“The government finally acknowledged what we have said all along: Professor Gang Chen is an innocent man,” defense attorney Robert Fisher said in a statement. “Our defense was never based on any legal technicalities. Our defense was this: Gang did not commit any of the offenses he was charged with.”
Fisher said Chen “was never an overseas scientist for Beijing” and that he “disclosed everything he was supposed to disclose and he never lied to the government or anyone else.”
The case is U.S. v. Chen, 21-cr-10018, U.S. District Court, District of Massachusetts (Boston).