Kansas researcher to mount defense over China ties at trial

The FBI agent who oversaw the investigation of a researcher accused of illegally conserving secret paintings he used to be doing for China whilst hired on the University of Kansas testified Monday that he did not be told till after the professor’s arrest that he used to be maintaining along with his grant paintings and if truth be told were commemorated for his prime output.

Defense legal professional Peter Zeidenberg referred to as FBI Special Agent Stephen Lampe to the stand as he started looking to forged doubt at the govt’s dealing with of his prosecution of Feng “Franklin” Tao.

He faces fees of twine and program fraud for no longer disclosing on conflict-of-interest bureaucracy the paintings he used to be doing for China whilst hired on the college. Federal prosecutors contend it used to be a scheme to defraud the college, the U.S. Department of Energy and the National Science Foundation.

The indictment alleges the aim of the scheme used to be to learn China via taking part in its “talent plan,” which prosecutors say is designed to inspire the switch of authentic concepts and highbrow belongings from U.S. college to Chinese govt establishments.

The govt accuses Tao of no longer informing the University of Kansas that he used to be decided on for the Changjiang Professorship or the wage for his appointment to Fuzhou University in Fuzhou, China.

The protection informed jurors throughout remaining week’s opening statements that Tao used to be simply “moonlighting.”

The case against Tao was part of what the Justice Department called its China Initiative, an effort created in 2018 to crack down on trade secret theft and economic espionage. The department in February ended the initiative following public criticism and failed prosecutions, though officials say they still intend to pursue the threat from China.

The case also has potential political overtones in Kansas, where former Assistant U.S. Attorney Tony Mattivi is now running for the Republican nomination in the state’s attorney general race. Mattivi in his campaign has touted his experience as a federal prosecutor handling terrorism cases — listing among them the Tao prosecution just before his retirement in late 2020 from the Justice Department.

In January, the department dropped its case against Gang Chen, a Massachusetts Institute of Technology professor charged in the final days of the Trump administration. Prosecutors concluded that they could no longer meet their burden of proof after they received information from the Department of Energy suggesting Chen had not been required to disclose certain information on his forms.

Tao’s attorneys have argued in filings that the Chen case has “direct parallels” to their shopper’s case in Kansas. They contend that the federal government didn’t interview someone on the Department of Energy and the National Science Foundation about whether or not the companies required disclosure of overseas skill program participation or paintings sooner than indicting Tao in 2019.

Prosecutors informed jurors remaining week that Tao “concocted an elaborate lie,” telling the University of Kansas that he sought after to do analysis in Germany and that he would purchase out the spring 2019 semester of his instructing portion of his contract. Instead, he successfully moved to China the place he labored to arrange a laboratory and to recruit group of workers for Fuzhou University at the nation’s coast. The prosecution additionally alleged he concealed that paintings on U.S. grant packages.

U.S. District Judge Julie Robinson has rejected lively protection efforts through the years that sought to disregard the indictment. Zeidenberg made the request once more Monday, arguing that no rational juror would to find grounds to convict.

“The government’s case, it fell apart as far as we are concerned,” Zeidenberg mentioned.

He stressed out that Tao used to be so prolific that the University of Kansas introduced in April 2019 — simply months sooner than his arrest — that he used to be one in all 4 school contributors that have been receiving an award in reputation in their scholarly or analysis contributions.

He added that Viviane Schwartz, a program supervisor with the Department of Energy, had testified that she didn’t care that Tao used to be putting in a lab in China and that his 2d process wasn’t her worry as a result of she wasn’t his employer.

Robinson requested the legal professionals to post their arguments in writing, with the trial to continue whilst she weighs the problem.

Lampe, the primary protection witness, mentioned it “simply doesn’t work” to have a full-time place at each universities. Asked whether or not he knew that Tao used to be the most efficient member of the college’s chemistry division, Lampe mentioned that he “didn’t find it relevant.”

Zeidenberg later offered binder after binder of published out copies of the emails Tao despatched to his graduate scholars during his association with the Chinese college.

“That is a lot of emails,” Lampe mentioned many times.

Zeidenberg famous that graduate scholars testified that extra analysis used to be carried out when Tao used to be long gone as a result of he used to be “constantly on their back.”

Zeidenberg additionally requested Lampe why Tao used to be publishing analysis during which he described himself as affiliated with each Fuzhou University and the University of Kansas if he used to be looking to disguise the connection.

Tao, who used to be born in China and moved to the U.S. in 2002, started operating in August 2014 on the University of Kansas’ Center for Environmentally Beneficial Catalysis, which conducts analysis on sustainable era to preserve herbal sources and effort.

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