News 72

[Agent Intercept]“Ridiculous Case”: Juror Criticizes DOJ for Charging Scientist With Hiding Ties to China

Update time:2021-07-08 12:39Tag:

  Sadiku testified that he believed Hu about the Thousand Talents program, the News Sentinel reported. But Sadiku then tried to enlist Hu to spy for the FBI, encouraging him to accept a speaking invitation in?China?and report back to the bureau after the event, Hu’s attorney, A. Philip Lomonaco,?said at a media briefing last week. Hu declined to go. China has a broadly applied law against stealing state secrets; people who are accused of spying have been executed under the law.

  Hu’s reluctance to spy for the FBI struck Chandler as entirely believable.

  “If the FBI came and saw me and said, ‘Come report back after you go to China,’ I wouldn’t go,” she said.

  But the?bureau?didn’t give up.?A?team of FBI agents tailed the scientist for 21 months. “They had six or seven agents or operatives following him around to work, to school, to the grocery store, going through his trash,” Lomonaco said at the media briefing. Hu never realized that the agents were on his trail, the lawyer added.

  Sadiku also testified that he showed University of Tennessee administrators a PowerPoint detailing purported ties that Hu had to the Chinese military. The university subsequently fired Hu. But Sadiku admitted in court that his accusation wasn’t true, according to the News Sentinel. “Based on my summary translations, my reports and my outline, no, Hu wasn’t involved with the Chinese military,” the paper quoted him as saying at trial.

  Sitting in court listening to the FBI agent’s testimony, Chandler grew steadily more upset. “I kept looking for the big reveal, and there wasn’t one,” she said. “All I saw was a series of plausible errors, a lack of support from UT, and ruthless ambition on behalf of the FBI.” On Sadiku, she added: “I don’t think there could have been a worse witness than him.”

  Prosecutors tried to paint Hu as duplicitous. In closing arguments, assistant U.S. attorney Casey Arrowood asserted, “He intentionally hid his ties to China to further his career. This case, ladies and gentlemen, is just that simple.”

  Hu’s attorney had a different view.

  “This case is really embarrassing,” Lomonaco countered. “It makes me want to vomit.”

  The jury began deliberating that afternoon, June 14, in a spacious courthouse room that was supplied with snacks. It was clear to Chandler from the outset that the jurors didn’t agree. By the end of the day, after three hours of deliberations, they had not reached a verdict.

  Driving home that night, she burst into tears. “I was so scared for this man,” she recalled. The trial had left her with the feeling that the government was charging Hu to justify its lengthy investigation. “They spent all this time and money on this big giant nothing burger, and they were not going to leave without a pound of flesh.”

  The judge had instructed jurors not to read the news and not to discuss the case with family members or friends. Chandler had no idea that the case was being closely watched, and she worried that few people outside Knoxville knew about it. She knew that she couldn’t convict Hu on what she saw as minor administrative errors,?a decision that could result in him going to prison for years. “I was prepared to be there the next day, the next week, the next month, the next year,” she said. “I wasn’t going to change my mind.”

  The jury resumed deliberations on June 16 and discussed the case for the entire day. At 4:45 p.m., the foreperson reported to the court that they were deadlocked, and the judge declared a mistrial.

  Calls to scrap the China Initiative are mounting. At last week’s media briefing, John Yang of Asian Americans Advancing Justice-AAJC urged the U.S. attorney’s office to drop Hu’s case and asked the Biden administration to declare a moratorium on new cases under the initiative. And a day after the judge declared a mistrial,?Reps. Ted Lieu, Mondaire Jones, and Pramila Jayapal requested that the Justice Department’s inspector general investigate the FBI’s conduct in the case.

  “The FBI has a long history of using racial, ethnic, and national origin bias as a proxy for national security threats,” said Brennan Center for Justice fellow Michael German, speaking at the media briefing. “This case is a perfect example of the problems with this type of approach.” German, a former FBI agent, added that the China Initiative creates pressure on agents to bring cases.

  The?Hu case is?now being?touted by the Chinese government as an example of U.S. malfeasance. “The false accusations expose the U.S. intelligence community’s usual ploy of investigation based on presumption of guilt,” foreign ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian said at a press conference Tuesday.

  The?assistant U.S. attorneys who prosecuted the case did not respond to The Intercept’s request for comment.

  Chandler is happy to see people questioning the case but still gets angry when she thinks about what happened.

  After she was dismissed from jury duty last week, she found Hu’s GoFundMe page, which his wife started to cover his legal fees, and donated $20. She believes the government now owes Hu an apology and that?the University of Tennessee should offer him his job back. As Chandler put it, “He deserves so much, this man, with what was done to him.”