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Former Harvard Chemistry Chair Lieber Pleads Not Guilty to Federal Charges

Former Harvard Chemistry department chair Charles M. Lieber was indicted on two counts of making false statements last week.
Former Harvard Chemistry department chair Charles M. Lieber was indicted on two counts of making false statements last week. By Camille G. Caldera
By James S. Bikales and Kevin R. Chen, Crimson Staff Writers

Former Harvard Chemistry department chair Charles M. Lieber pleaded not guilty Tuesday to charges that he lied to federal investigators about research funding he received from China.

Lieber, who was indicted on two counts of making false statements last week, appeared via video-conference before Magistrate Judge Marianne B. Bowler in Massachusetts District Court.

“This case is not about China or allegedly false statements,” Marc L. Mukasey, Lieber’s attorney, wrote in an email Tuesday. “Academic freedom is at stake here. Scientists and professors should stand with Charlie in this battle.”

Lieber will next appear in court July 30, according to the Boston Globe. Assistant U.S. Attorney Jason A. Casey said during Tuesday’s arraignment that a trial in the case would last a week and involve roughly 10 witnesses, the Globe reported.

The two counts brought against Lieber, a world-renowned nanoscientist, center on his involvement with China’s Thousand Talents Program. The Chinese government established the Thousand Talents Program in 2008, hoping to attract scholars from across the world to contribute to Chinese development. The U.S. government has since said the program poses a danger to national security.

The first count alleges Lieber purposely told federal investigators in 2018 that he was never asked to participate in the Thousand Talents Program and that he “wasn’t sure” how China categorized him. In fact, representatives of Wuhan University of Technology in China previously asked Lieber to participate in the program, and he signed a three-year contract as a One Thousand Talent “high level foreign expert” in 2012, according to charging documents.

The grand jury also indicted Lieber on a second charge of making false statements for causing Harvard to tell the National Institutes of Health in 2019 that he had never participated in the Thousand Talents Program.

Federal authorities arrested Lieber on Jan. 28; Harvard placed him on paid administrative leave later that day. Lieber was released after accepting a $1 million bail agreement.

The charge of making false statements allows for a sentence of up to five years in prison, three years of supervised release, and a fine of $250,000.

—Staff writer James S. Bikales can be reached at james.bikales@thecrimson.com. Follow him on Twitter @jamepdx.

—Staff writer Kevin R. Chen can be reached at kevin.chen@thecrimson.com. Follow him on Twitter @kchenx.

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