Temple prof seeks reinstatement of damage claims against FBI

Feb 6, 2022, 8:00 PM | Updated: Feb 7, 2022, 6:09 pm
FILE - An American flag flies outside the Department of Justice in Washington, March 22, 2019. A Te...

FILE - An American flag flies outside the Department of Justice in Washington, March 22, 2019. A Temple University physicist who was charged with sharing scientific technology with China only for the case to collapse before trial and be dismissed by the Justice Department is asking a federal appeals court to reinstate his lawsuit against the FBI agent who investigated him. Lawyers for Xiaoxing Xi and his wife say in a brief filed Monday with a Philadelphia-based appeals court that a judge erred last year when he dismissed their claims for damages. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik, File)

(AP Photo/Andrew Harnik, File)

WASHINGTON (AP) — A Temple University physics professor who was charged with sharing scientific technology with China only for the case to collapse before trial and be dismissed by the Justice Department asked a federal appeals court on Monday to reinstate his clams for damages against the U.S. government.

Lawyers for Xiaoxing Xi and his wife say in a brief filed Monday with a Philadelphia-based appeals court that a judge erred last year when he dismissed most of the claims in their federal lawsuit. They assert that the FBI agent who led the investigation “intentionally, knowingly or recklessly” made false statements and misrepresented evidence so that prosecutors could get an indictment.

“When law enforcement agents abuse the legal process by obtaining indictments and search warrants based on misrepresentations or by fabricating evidence, it undermines the legitimacy of the courts,” Xi’s legal team, which includes lawyers from the American Civil Liberties Union, wrote in the brief.

“The judiciary has a stake in ensuring that malicious prosecutions and illegal searches do not go unchecked, and the courts have well-established standards for assessing such claims,” the brief says. “Moreover, the harm to Professor Xi, his family, and society at large, as well as the need to deter further misconduct, strongly weigh in favor of allowing these claims to proceed.”

In a statement provided by the ACLU, Xi said there was “clear evidence that the FBI violated our constitutional rights that day, and years later we are still dealing with the trauma of this ordeal.”

“If we can’t hold the government accountable now, there will be little to stop the government from profiling other Asian American scientists and ruining more innocent people’s lives in the future,” he added.

A Justice Department spokeswoman declined to comment Monday.

The bungled case against Xi was brought three years before the Justice Department in 2018 launched what’s known as the China Initiative, an effort to counter trade secret theft and economic espionage by Beijing.

Many of the cases have targeted professors at U.S. universities suspected of concealing Chinese government ties on applications for federal funding. Despite some convictions, the effort has endured notable setbacks, with prosecutors forced to dismiss several cases over the last year — including one last month, when officials said they couldn’t meet their burden of proof against a Massachusetts Institute of Technology professor who’d been charged with fraud.

The China Initiative is now under review, and Patrick Toomey, a senior staff attorney with the ACLU’s National Security Project, called Monday for the Biden administration to abandon it.

The legal brief traces the history of the case, recounting how Xi, a naturalized U.S. citizen from China with expertise in thin film superconducting technology, was arrested at his home early one morning in May 2015. His wife and daughters were held at gunpoint in the living room while the professor was taken into custody to be interrogated, fingerprinted and strip-searched.

He was placed on administrative leave, suspended from his job as interim chair of Temple’s physics department and was unable to participate in his research.

Xi was indicted on charges that he had shared information about a device called a “pocket heater” with academic counterparts in China. But the criminal charges were “false and fabricated,” Monday’s filing states, and the email communications at the center of the indictment were not about a pocket heater but rather about an entirely different device that described a process that Xi and his colleagues had invented.

The Justice Department dismissed the case before trial in 2015. Xi sued in 2017.

In the lawsuit, Xi singled out the FBI agent who investigated him, accusing him of having knowingly made false statements to prosecutors so that they could secure an indictment, of misunderstanding the science at the center of the case and of ignoring information he’d been given prior to the prosecution that established Xi’s innocence.

The lawsuit also alleges that Xi was targeted based on his Chinese ethnicity, with lawyers Monday calling the prosecution discriminatory.

In seeking to dismiss the lawsuit, Justice Department lawyers representing the FBI agent, Andrew Haugen, said probable cause had existed to indict Xi even if the case was later dismissed, and that the agent had made “reasonable efforts” to understand the professor’s work.

A federal judge in Philadelphia, R. Barclay Surrick, dismissed nine of the couple’s 10 claims last year, ruling that they were unable to recover damages from the U.S. government and that judgments and decisions about the investigation and prosecution were matters of discretion. A tenth claim, related to the surveillance of Xi and his family, is still pending.

“What happened to Xi and his family is very unfortunate,” Surrick wrote. “Nevertheless, it is the obligation of this court to simply apply the law as it presently exists to the facts.”

But that ruling was erroneous, according to lawyers for the professor and his wife, who say in the filing that their lawsuit plausibly alleged “the fabrication of evidence to secure an indictment of Professor Xi, the falsification of reports and affidavits to obtain a warrant for the search of the Xi family’s home and belongings, and the discriminatory prosecution of Professor Xi on the basis of his race and ethnicity.”


Follow Eric Tucker on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/etuckerAP

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


FILE - Gov. Phil Bryant speaks about his legacy following a life of public service, Jan. 8, 2020, i...
Associated Press

Texts: Favre also sought welfare money for football facility

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — After Mississippi spent millions of dollars in welfare money on Brett Favre’s pet project, a university volleyball arena, the retired NFL quarterback tried two years later to get additional cash from the state’s welfare agency for another sports facility, new court documents show. The governor at the time, Republican Phil Bryant, […]
17 hours ago
Associated Press

Police: Man arrested in California plotted mass shooting

CHICO, Calif. (AP) — A 37-year-old man was arrested Sunday in Northern California on suspicion of threatening to kill police officers and planning a “Las Vegas-style” mass shooting, authorities said. The suspect was taken into custody by SWAT officers at a Super 8 motel in Chico after detectives obtained evidence of his plot, according to […]
17 hours ago
A sedan is wedged between a small, black pickup truck and the Bagel Time Cafe in Wildwood, N.J., ea...
Associated Press

Official: 2 killed amid crashes during pop-up NJ car rally

WILDWOOD, N.J. (AP) — A pop-up car rally over the weekend in southern New Jersey led to multiple crashes and the deaths of at least two people riding in a golf cart, officials say. Wildwood Mayor Pete Byron told NJ Advance Media on Sunday that there were a series of car crashes related to the […]
17 hours ago
Associated Press

Little evidence of political argument before teen’s death

BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) — There is little indication that an 18-year-old who died after being struck by an SUV in North Dakota was a political extremist like the driver claimed. Investigators say none of the witnesses they have interviewed support the idea that there was a political argument before authorities say Shannon Brandt struck Cayler […]
17 hours ago
Demonstrators hold placards outside the Iranian Embassy in London, Sunday, Sept. 25, 2022. They wer...
Associated Press

Unrest erupts near Iranian embassy in London over death

LONDON (AP) — Violent street protests erupted outside the Iranian embassy in London on Sunday, with rocks thrown at police and five protesters arrested. Large crowds have been gathering all week outside the Knightsbridge compound in protest against the death in Iranian police custody of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini in Iran. She had been arrested by […]
2 days ago
Cuba's President Miguel Diaz Canel walks with his wife Lis Cuesta Peraza before casting his vote at...
Associated Press

Cuba holds unusual vote on law allowing same-sex marriage

HAVANA (AP) — Cuba held a rare referendum Sunday on an unusually contentious law — a government-backed “family law” code that would allow same-sex couples to marry and adopt, as well as outlining the rights of children and grandparents. Cuba holds parliamentary elections every two years, though no party other than the Communist is allowed, […]
2 days ago

Sponsored Articles

Anacortes Christmas Tree...

Come one, come all! Food, Drink, and Coastal Christmas – Anacortes has it all!

Come celebrate Anacortes’ 11th annual Bier on the Pier! Bier on the Pier takes place on October 7th and 8th and features local ciders, food trucks and live music - not to mention the beautiful views of the Guemes Channel and backdrop of downtown Anacortes.
Swedish Cyberknife Treatment...

The revolutionary treatment of Swedish CyberKnife provides better quality of life for majority of patients

There are a wide variety of treatments options available for men with prostate cancer. One of the most technologically advanced treatment options in the Pacific Northwest is Stereotactic Body Radiation Therapy using the CyberKnife platform at Swedish Medical Center.
Work at Zum Services...

Seattle Public Schools announces three-year contract with Zum

Seattle Public Schools just announced a three-year contract with a brand-new company to the Pacific Northwest to assist with their student transportation: Zum.
Swedish Cyberknife 900x506...

June is Men’s Health Month: Here’s Why It’s Important To Speak About Your Health

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, men in the United States, on average, die five years earlier than women.

Anacortes – A Must Visit Summertime Destination

While Anacortes is certainly on the way to the San Juan Islands (SJI), it is not just a destination to get to the ferry… Anacortes is a destination in and of itself!

Ready for your 2022 Alaskan Adventure with Celebrity Cruises?

Celebrity Cruises SPONSORED — A round-trip Alaska cruise from Seattle is an amazing treat for you and a loved one. Not only are you able to see and explore some of the most incredible and visually appealing natural sights on the planet, but you’re also able to relax and re-energize while aboard a luxury cruise […]
Temple prof seeks reinstatement of damage claims against FBI