Former Harvard University chemistry professor Charles M. Lieber was sentenced April 26, ending a legal process that took more than 3 years. Federal judge Rya W. Zobel sentenced Lieber to the time he served when he was arrested, on Jan. 28, 2020; 2 years of supervised release, the first 6 months of which Lieber will be confined to his home; and a $50,000 fine. The sentence included $33,600 in restitution to the US Internal Revenue Service that Lieber paid before last week’s sentencing hearing.
The sentencing follows Lieber’s conviction on Dec. 21, 2021, when a jury found him guilty of tax offenses and making false statements to investigators about his work with a university in China. He was prosecuted as part of the US Department of Justice’s China Initiative, a controversial program that ended last year. Lieber retired from Harvard on Feb. 1.
The sentence is more lenient than the US attorneys recommended. They asked for 90 days of incarceration and 1 year of supervised release, which would include 90 days of home confinement, as well as a $150,000 fine in addition to the restitution to the IRS.
Lieber’s attorney Marc L. Mukasey argued that Lieber—who was diagnosed with lymphoma in 2013 and has been through many rounds of treatment—had too weak an immune system to serve time in prison without putting his health at grave risk.
Lieber became emotional as he addressed the court in advance of his sentencing. “I would like to express my sincere apologies and remorse for my actions,” he said. Lieber also apologized to his family, friends, and students and thanked them for their support. He said his doctoral and postdoctoral mentees have always been like children to him. “I feel I’ve failed you,” Lieber said.
Lieber said that he has always been focused on his research and advancing science and that focus led him to ignore things he knew were important and should have been aware of, such as tax laws. “I hope that in the future, with whatever life I have left, that I am able to help young scientists to be successful,” he said.