BOSTON – Defense attorneys representing Harvard professor Charles M. Lieber, who is on trial for allegedly lying to federal investigators about his ties to China, argued with prosecutors on Thursday over the relevance of documents obtained during searches of the home and office of the eminent chemist.
Lieber faces six counts, including making false statements to federal investigators and failing to report his income and foreign bank accounts to government agencies.
On Thursday, the third day of trial, prosecutors interviewed FBI Special Agent Kara D. Spice, who was involved in Lieber’s arrest and interview in January 2020.
Thanks to Spice’s testimony, prosecutors presented a wealth of documents recovered in the FBI raids on Lieber’s office at Harvard and Lexington, Mass., Home. The evidence included emails between Lieber and a former student, Liqiang Mai, who oversaw an unauthorized joint lab at Harvard-Wuhan University of Technology where Lieber worked as the lab director, according to government evidence.
In emails, Mai called Lieber a “top foreign expert” under the Thousand Talent Program, a Chinese government initiative to recruit foreign scientists. Prosecutors allege Lieber made false statements to federal officials regarding his involvement in the TTP. Lieber’s defense team claim he cooperated with investigators and made no attempt to mislead them.
In a 2012 email, Mai wrote that Lieber had been approved by the Chinese government as a âstrategic foreign expertâ in the TTP, years before his talks with authorities. Mai also sent Lieber contracts for his work with WUT as a âstrategic scientistâ.
The defense objected to many emails being admitted into evidence, saying Lieber never recognized or responded to them.
“This is an email from Publishers Clearing House,” Lieber lead defense counsel Marc L. Mukasey said of one of the emails presented by prosecutors. “If someone sends me an email saying that I am part of something or that I have won something, that doesn’t mean that I am.”
Jurors also heard further testimony from RenÃ©e R. Donlon, a former administrative coordinator of the Lieber research group who began testifying on Wednesday.
Donlon said she was responsible for coordinating the logistical details and assembling travel itineraries for the trips Lieber made to Wuhan, China, between 2012 and 2014. In her testimony, she identified the map Lieber’s Chinese bank, supporting the government’s accusation that he had a foreign bank account. , which prosecutors allege he failed to report to the Internal Revenue Service.
Defense lawyer Stephanie Guaba asked Donlon about the trips Lieber took to Canada and Israel, but Donlon could not confirm or deny any details about the trips without the submission of trip summaries.
Ahead of the trial at 1 p.m. Thursday, Assistant U.S. Attorney Jason A. Casey said he now expects the government case to end on Monday rather than Friday.
âI think we’re a little late, but not too far away,â Casey said.
– Editor Mayesha R. Soshi can be contacted at [email protected]