A U.S. judge on Wednesday announced the aborted trial of former University of Tennessee researcher Anming Hu. Hu is accused of concealing his ties to the Chinese university while receiving grants from the federal government.
Local media outlet WBIR-TV reported that Federal District Judge Thomas Varlan aborted the trial after the jury informed the judge that they were “deadlocked.
An aborted trial means the jurors were unable to reach a unanimous verdict on the defendant’s guilt or innocence. By law, the prosecution can reindict, but it is unclear whether the government will reindict Hoang Minh.
Defense attorney Phil Lomonaco attacked the case as thin, misguided and political. The defense filed a motion to dismiss with Judge Valland.
The jury began deliberations on Monday, took a day off on Tuesday and resumed deliberations on Wednesday. Jurors informed Varland Wednesday afternoon that they could not reach a verdict.
Juan Minh is an associate professor in the Department of Mechanical, Aerospace and Biomedical Engineering at the University of Tennessee. He was indicted by a grand jury in February 2020 and charged with three counts of wire fraud and three counts of making false statements. After Hu’s indictment, the University of Tennessee suspended him from his position.
Hu was born and raised in China and holds Canadian citizenship.
The charges against Hu are part of a broader U.S. Justice Department crackdown on university researchers concealing ties to Chinese institutions. Charles Lieber, chairman of Harvard University’s chemistry and biochemistry department, was arrested on similar charges. Federal officials have also alleged that Beijing is intent on stealing intellectual property from U.S. institutions and have continued to warn schools about espionage attempts.
Under the direction of the Justice Department’s China Initiative, federal prosecutors have brought more than a dozen criminal cases alleging that scholars at U.S. universities and research institutions concealed their receipt of Chinese government funding or that visiting researchers from China concealed their ties to the Chinese military. . Some of the suspects have pleaded guilty. Hu, who pleaded not guilty, was tried by a jury and became the first person to appear in court on charges of concealing his work in China.
In a previous China Action Plan case, a federal jury in Greenville, Tennessee, in April found Xiaorong You, a senior chemist involved in China’s “Thousand Talents Program,” guilty of conspiracy to steal trade secrets, economic espionage and wire fraud.
In the Hu case, the prosecution alleges that Hu defrauded NASA by failing to disclose that he was also a professor at Beijing Institute of Technology. Under a federal law, NASA cannot fund Chinese-owned companies or universities.
“He deliberately concealed his ties to China to further his own career,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Casey Arrowood told jurors Monday. “Ladies and gentlemen, this case is as simple as that.”
There was testimony that university officials told the faculty that NASA’s restrictions did not apply to them.
Lomonaco said Juan Ming did not believe he was required to fill out his summer adjunct activities on his disclosure statement and that no one at the University of Tennessee told him he should not do so. The defense attorney said Juan Ming’s relationship with BIT was apparently listed in other documents. He also said it was NASA that came to seek out Hu’s skills.
“They wanted him to work on this project,” Romonaco said. “(A NASA contractor) approached him because his credentials were fantastic. (Juan Ming) was not trying to cheat NASA.”