Former Kansas researcher appeals remaining conviction

Apr 4, 2023, 2:27 PM

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — A former researcher, who was accused of hiding work he did in China while employed at the University of Kansas, has asked a federal judge to reverse a conviction for making a false statement on an employee form.

Feng “Franklin” Tao was threw out the wire fraud convictions in September, but let the false statement conviction stand.

Tao was sentenced to time served.

In a motion filed Monday, Tao’s attorneys argued his remaining conviction also should be reversed, or go to trial again.

Tao was accused of not properly filling out an institutional responsibilities form for the University of Kansas, by not disclosing that he was traveling to China to work on setting up a laboratory and recruit staff for Fuzhou University.

Federal prosecutors argued that Tao’s activities defrauded the university, as well as the U.S. Department of Energy and National Science Foundation, which had awarded Tao grants for research projects at the school.

In the motion for a reversal, Tao’s attorneys said the university did not share the form with the two federal agencies, meaning it did not impact any decisions on research projects. They also argued that Tao’s alleged omissions on the form did not violate federal law concerning making false statements.

The motion said the case against Tao was a “breathtaking instance of prosecutorial overreach” that sought to make a human resources issue at the university into a federal crime.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office in Washington did not immediately return a request for comment.

The case against Tao was part of the U.S. Justice Department’s China Initiative, which started in 2018 to thwart what the agency said was the transfer of original ideas and intellectual property from U.S. universities to the Chinese government. The department ended the program amid public criticism and several failed prosecutions.

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Former Kansas researcher appeals remaining conviction