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Charges dismissed against MIT’s Gang Chen over China interactions

Harvard’s Charles Lieber loses case over legal bills

by Jyllian Kemsley
January 20, 2022 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 100, Issue 3


A man in a chair at a desk with a stack of books and a computer monitor and keyboard.
Credit: Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Gang Chen

A federal judge has dismissed felony charges against Massachusetts Institute of Technology mechanical engineering professor Gang Chen involving his interactions with China.

Chen was charged under the China Initiative, a Department of Justice program to address economic espionage. Similar to other academic researchers charged under the program, Chen faced charges of wire fraud for submitting false documents electronically, failing to report a foreign bank account, and filing a false tax return.

“We recently obtained additional information pertaining to the materiality of Professor Chen’s alleged omissions in the context of the grant review process at issue in this case,” US attorney Rachael S. Rollins said in a Jan. 20 statement announcing the dismissal. “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.”

Chen’s case stands in stark contrast to that of Harvard University chemistry professor Charles Lieber. A jury convicted Lieber on Dec. 21, 2021 for making false statements, failing to disclose a Chinese bank account, and filing fraudulent tax returns.

The two cases also differ in the help that their employers offered the scientists. MIT has publicly supported Chen and paid his legal expenses. Harvard has not done the same for Lieber, leading him to file suit against the university to cover his costs. The Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts ruled against Lieber in that matter on Jan. 10.



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