Embattled Harvard scientist Charles Lieber goes on a counter-offensive, hiring high-profile lawyer and suing Harvard for abandoning him amid federal probe
Charles Lieber, the Harvard scientist facing federal charges for allegedly lying about Chinese funding, is mounting a fierce legal defense, beginning with the enlistment of a high-profile attorney and a lawsuit against his employer.
Lieber hired Marc Mukasey, a criminal attorney who defended former Navy Seal Edward Gallagher against war crime charges last year and currently represents Eric Trump in a New York state fraud case, the New York Times first reported. And on Friday, he filed suit against Harvard, alleging the university abandoned him and their responsibility to indemnify him or aid his legal defense.
The legal maneuvering sets Lieber apart from the other researchers caught up in the Justice Department’s effort to weed out scientists it claims were siphoning research from the US to China, under the so-called Thousand Talents program. The dragnet had largely caught up graduate students and professors of Chinese origin, some of whom left the country or otherwise did not contest charges in court.
Lieber was arrested in January on charges of lying to the US government about receiving millions of dollars from the Chinese state and participating in a Chinese talent recruitment program, while NIH and DoD spent over $15 million funding his lab. The tenured professor, a pioneer in medical nanotechnology and the chair of Harvard’s chemistry department, pleaded not guilty on July 30.
The new lawsuit argues that Harvard benefited from years of Lieber’s research, only to distance themselves entirely when federal officials rolled in. He is currently on paid leave from the university.
Prosecutors say Lieber signed an agreement to become a “strategic scientist” at the Wuhan University of Technology in China, a position that granted him $200,000 per year in living expenses and salary and another $1.5 million to open a second lab in the Chinese city. They added that he was selected for Thousand Talents — a program meant to recruit top foreign scientists that federal officials say was a conduit to stealing research — in 2012 but claimed to have never taken part in the program when he was interviewed by federal officials in 2018.
He could face more than 10 years in prison for failing to disclose the Chinese funding, filing false tax returns and failing to report a foreign bank account.