The prosecution of a Kansas researcher ensnared in a U.S. government crackdown on Chinese economic espionage and trade secret theft opens the door to criminalizing workplace disagreements, his attorneys have argued in a motion asking a court to throw out the charges.
Feng “Franklin” Tao is charged with not disclosing on conflict-of-interest forms work he was allegedly doing for China while employed at the University of Kansas – something federal prosecutors have portrayed as a scheme to defraud the university, the U.S. Department of Energy, and the National Science Foundation.
In their request to dismiss the case, defense lawyers wrote that the government seeks to use Tao’s prosecution as a potential new model for the Justice Department to prosecute professors without having to produce evidence of intellectual property theft or export control violations.
His lawyers warn that the case would open the door to criminalizing employment disputes that are better resolved by a human resources department.
Tao faces 10 counts, including seven counts of wire fraud, based on two conflict-of-interest forms he submitted to the university.