CBS 60 Minutes this Sunday, May 15, 2016 at 7:00PM ET/PT for a special broadcasting about the wrongful prosecutions of economic espionage including Temple University Professor Xiaoxing Xi and National Weather Service hydrologist Sherry Chen.
For more information on the case of Sherry Chen, please visit www.sherrychendefensefund.com. The collected trust fund is used for legal related expenses. Any left over funds, if any, goes to non profit charitable organizations. Helping Sherry is like helping ourselves.
WASHINGTON — The Justice Department has issued new rules that give prosecutors in Washington greater oversight and control over national security cases after the collapse of several high-profile prosecutions led to allegations that Chinese-Americans were being singled out as spies.
The new rules are intended to prevent such missteps, but without undermining a counterespionage mission that is a top priority for the Obama administration.
In December 2014, the Justice Department dropped charges against two former Eli Lilly scientists, Guoqing Cao and Shuyu Li, who had been accused of leaking proprietary information to a Chinese drugmaker. Three months later, prosecutors dropped a case against Sherry Chen, a government hydrologist in Ohio who had been charged with secretly downloading information about dams.
Then in September, the Justice Department dismissed all charges against a Temple University professor, Xiaoxing Xi, after leading physicists testified that prosecutors had entirely misunderstood the science underpinning their case.
“We cannot tolerate another case of Asian-Americans being wrongfully suspected of espionage,” Representative Judy Chu, Democrat of California, said last fall. “The profiling must end.”
While those cases raised the specter of Chinese espionage, none explicitly charged the scientists as spies. The cases involved routine criminal laws such as wire fraud, so national security prosecutors in Washington did not oversee the cases.
In a letter last month to federal prosecutors nationwide, Deputy Attorney General Sally Q. Yates said that would change. All cases affecting national security, even tangentially, now require coordination and oversight in Washington. That had always been the intention of the rule, but Ms. Yates made it explicit.
“The term ‘national security issue’ is meant to be a broad one,” she wrote.
Ms. Yates told federal prosecutors that consulting with experienced national security prosecutors in Washington would help “ensure prompt, consistent and effective responses” to national security cases.
The letter, which was not made public, was provided to The New York Times by a government official.
John P. Carlin, the Justice Department’s top national security prosecutor, reorganized his staff in Washington in recent years to focus more aggressively on preventing theft of America’s trade secrets. The new rules mean that espionage experts will review cases like Dr. Xi’s. Such cases “shall be instituted and conducted under the supervision” of Mr. Carlin or other top officials, the rules say.
Peter R. Zeidenberg, a lawyer for the firm Arent Fox, who represented Dr. Xi and Ms. Chen, called the new rules “a very positive step.”
“It’s welcome, and it’s overdue,” he said. “A bad reaction would be ‘We’re not going to do anything. Everything is fine.’ ”
Several of the cases fell apart when defense lawyers confronted prosecutors with new evidence or previewed the arguments they planned to make in court. In traditional white-collar criminal investigations, those conversations between prosecutors and defense lawyers often happen before charges are filed. In cases involving even a whiff of espionage, however, such conversations rarely happen. Authorities worry that suspects, tipped off to the investigation, will run or destroy evidence.
The absence of those conversations makes it important, then, that such cases receive an extra layer of review, defense lawyers said.
Ms. Yates did not mention the botched cases in her letter. But at the Justice Department, they were regarded as unfortunate — and perhaps preventable — black eyes that detracted from a string of successful espionage prosecutions. The United States faces an onslaught of economic espionage and other spying from China. Last year, Chinese hackers stole a trove of government data — including Social Security numbers and fingerprints — on more than 21 million people.
Last month, Su Bin, a Chinese businessman, pleaded guilty to trying to hack into American defense contractors to steal information on the F-22 and F-35 fighter jets and Boeing’s C-17 military cargo plane. In January, a Chinese citizen pleaded guilty to trying to steal corn seeds from American companies and ship them to China to replicate their genetic properties.
Mr. Zeidenberg and others have argued that rushed cases create suspicion and unfairly tarnish reputations. In the case against the Eli Lilly scientists, prosecutors were unsparing in their description.
“If the superseding indictment in this case could be wrapped up in one word, that word would be ‘traitor,’” Cynthia Ridgeway, an assistant United States attorney, told a federal court in Indiana last year, according to the Indianapolis Business Journal.
The Justice Department gave no explanation for later dropping the case, saying only that it was done “in the interests of justice.”
Prosecutors made a similar statement last year when dropping charges against Dr. Xi. The dismissal suggested investigators did not understand and did not do enough to learn the science before they brought charges. Prosecutors had accused Dr. Xi, chairman of Temple’s physics department, with sharing schematics for a piece of American-made laboratory equipment, a pocket heater, with China. After leading scientists — including the inventor of the pocket heater — testified that the schematics showed an entirely different type of heater, the Justice Department dropped the case.
Though prosecutors dropped charges against Ms. Chen, the government has said it intends to fire her. She is fighting that decision.
Vargas hid from Chun that his estranged father had served time on a manslaughter conviction — for accidentally shooting a friend — despite the fact that he’d revealed the information to another judge just hours earlier as he was questioned as part of another jury pool on a different case.
Liang’s defense team submitted a motion Tuesday asking Chun to set aside the manslaughter verdict — possibly netting the former rookie a new trial — after Vargas blabbed about his dad.
Jurors expressed shock and dismay Friday over Brooklyn District Attorney Kenneth Thompson’s recommendation of a no-jail sentence for the ex-NYPD cop who killed Akai Gurley.
“What was the point of prosecuting him?” asked a 62-year-old juror who requested anonymity. “What did we do this for?”
“I agree he doesn’t deserve tremendous time,” the juror added, “but if something is wrong, you shouldn’t get a slap on the wrist.”
Former Officer Peter Liang faces up to 15 years in prison after he was convicted of manslaughter in the November 2014 slaying of Gurley, 28.
The unarmed father was mortally wounded when a bullet fired by Liang ricocheted into his chest inside a darkened stairwell at the Pink Houses in East New York.
Thompson has been under attack from Gurley’s loved ones and supporters since he sent a letter to the sentencing judge recommending Liang perform 500 hours of community service, five years’ probation and home confinement for six months.
“Wow. Is this right?” a stunned second juror said after being told about the letter by a Daily News reporter.
The 62-year-old juror noted that his own father served more than seven years in prison for accidentally shooting a friend.
“You cannot put away the average person’s thoughts here just because they are police officers,” the juror said. “They deserve to be prosecuted and sentenced just like everyone else who has the same background or committed the same crime.”
The Brooklyn resident said he believes Thompson was swayed by pressure from the Asian community, which vigorously protested the charges brought against Liang.
“I think the Asian community played a lot with the DA’s decision and got to him,” the juror said.
But not all of the jurors had harsh words for Thompson.
“He is doing his job and I can’t question him,” said Carlton Screen, 69, the only African-American among the 12-person panel. “That’s how he felt and he is doing what he needs to do as a man in the position, the district attorney.”
Brooklyn District Attorney Ken Thompson is recommending no jail time and six months house arrest for former NYPD officer Peter Liang in the fatal shooting of Akai Gurley.
Liang was convicted of manslaughter last month for killing Gurley while on a vertical patrol in a stairwell at the Pink Houses in 2014. He faces up to 15 years in prison, but a statement released by Thompson says justice would best be served with a mixture of house arrest, probation and community service.
Here is the full text of Thompson’s statement: “Peter Liang was indicted, prosecuted and subsequently convicted by a jury because his reckless actions caused an innocent man to lose his life. There is no evidence, however, that he intended to kill or injure Akai Gurley. When Mr. Liang went into that building that night, he did so as part of his job and to keep the people of Brooklyn and our city safe.
“In sentencing a defendant, the facts of the crime and the particular characteristics of that person must be considered. Mr. Liang has no prior criminal history and poses no future threat to public safety. Because his incarceration is not necessary to protect the public, and due to the unique circumstances of this case, a prison sentence is not warranted.
“Justice will be best served if Mr. Liang is sentenced to five years of probation, with the condition that he serves six months of home confinement with electric monitoring and performs 500 hours of community service. I have provided this sentencing recommendation to Justice Chun.
“As I have said before, there are no winners here. But the sentence that I have requested is just and fair under the circumstances of this case. From the beginning, this tragic case has always been about justice and not about revenge.”
Prosecutors portrayed the rookie police officer as a coward who fired his weapon into a darkened stairwell after he became startled. The bullet ricocheted off the wall and killed Gurley, an innocent, unarmed man simply taking the stairs. The defense insisted he fired by mistake and that Liang was wracked with remorse.
Following the DA’s announcement Wednesday, Police Benevolent Association president Pat Lynch released a statement, saying, “Police officers are human being and as such can make mistakes while risking their lives to protect the community. Criminalizing a mistake, even a tragic accidental discharge like this, serves no good purpose. The reasons cited by the DA for justifying no jail time in this tragedy are the very same reasons that the officer should not have been indicted in the first place.”
The shooting happened in a year of debate nationwide about police killings of black men, and activists have looked to Liang’s trial as a counterweight to cases in which grand juries have declined to indict officers, including the cases of Michael Brown in Missouri and Eric Garner in New York. Like Gurley, Brown and Garner were black and unarmed.
The verdict came after two full days of deliberations. Sentencing is scheduled for April 14.