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MIT professor gets his life back: Government drops charges over Chinese contracts

The US Attorney's office today dropped wire-fraud and other charges against an MIT professor who had been facing up to 20 years in prison in a case brought in the waning days of the Trump administration and its efforts to go after China.

Gang Chen, who specializes in energy-related nanotechnology, was arrested six days before the end of the Trump regime. He joined Harvard Professor Charles Lieber, who specializes in biology-related nanotechnology, on charges that they illegally hid their Chinese remuneration from the federal government and their schools. Locally, the government also brought charges against an alleged spy at BU and a hapless cancer researcher at Beth Israel.

Unlike Lieber, convicted last month, however, the government now says it has no case against Chen. In a statement this morning, US Attorney Rachael Rollins says:

After a careful assessment of this new information in the context of all the evidence, our office has concluded that we can no longer meet our burden of proof at trial. As prosecutors, we have an obligation in every matter we pursue to continually examine the facts while being open to receiving and uncovering new information. We understand that our charging decisions deeply impact people’s lives. As United States Attorney, I will always encourage the prosecutors in our office to engage in this type of rigorous and continued review at every stage of a proceeding. Today’s dismissal is a result of that process and is in the interests of justice.

Neither Rollins nor her office's formal motion to dismiss the case specify just what that information was.

Not long after Chen was arrested, his lawyers asked a judge to sanction the US Attorney's office in part for getting basic information wrong, such as the fact that one contract that Chen allegedly tried to hide was in fact a contract between a Chinese university and an entire MIT department, not Chen individually.

Later, his attorney's submitted a statement by another professor in the same field that he and Chen often had to omit information from federal grant applications, such as about contracts with Chinese concerns, not to deliberately hide the information but because the federal forms simply didn't have enough room to list every funding source.

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According to the WaPo article:

What tipped the scale, the people said, was an interview by prosecutors this month of a senior Energy Department official, who is considered an authority on what disclosures are material on grant forms. The official confirmed that the 2017 form did not require disclosures of Chen’s ties to the technology university or other Chinese government organizations and programs, one person said.

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Like, in July, based on an FBI interview of another professor in the field (scroll down for "The FBI Interviews NC State Professor Jun Lui").

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Harder to say it's just the defense grasping at straws when it's your own side saying it.

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Can we get a story on Needham's finest caught insider trading?

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I mean, you can't expect a largely one man operation to cover everything that's already being covered by numerous other, larger local news operations, can you?

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