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Harvard chemist Charles Lieber loses initial appeal

Judge denies request to overturn his conviction or grant a new trial

by Andrea Widener
September 2, 2022


Charles Lieber wearing a mask and coat as he leaves the courthouse.
Credit: Credit: Associated Press
Charles Lieber leaving federal court in Boston on Dec. 14, 2021.

A US federal court has denied Harvard University chemistry professor Charles Lieber’s request to overturn his conviction on charges of lying about his connections to China.

In a written ruling issued Sept. 1, Judge Rya Zobel knocked down each of Lieber’s attorney’s arguments about why his conviction should be overturned. She also refused to grant Lieber a new trial.

“The evidence supports the verdicts,” Zobel wrote in one section. She listed the evidence against Lieber, including videos in which he admitted wrongdoing.

Lieber’s attorneys contended at an April hearing—and in submitted arguments—that the US Department of Justice tainted the trial by connecting Lieber with its China Initiative. The controversial initiative was intended to combat economic espionage, and the DOJ has revamped it after admitting it caused harm to Asian American communities. Lieber’s attorneys also argued that the government used invalid legal theories to convict him.

Lieber’s lawyers further said that Zobel, who also oversaw the initial trial, erred by admitting as evidence statements Lieber made to federal investigators and that her instructions to the jury were flawed.

In her ruling, Zobel says that the government’s legal theories were in line with the law and were not a reason to overturn the case. She also ruled that her instructions to the jury were accurate and, if Lieber’s legal team had a reason to object, then they should have done it at the time the instructions were given.

Lieber is still free on bail while he waits for a sentencing hearing. That hearing is currently scheduled for January 2023.



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