Federal prosecutors are attempting to dismiss their case against Xiaoxing Xi, the Temple University professor who was recently charged with espionage.
Xi, who is regarded as a leading researcher for superconductors, worked at a company that in 2002, invented a pocket heater that revolutionized his field. In 2003, he purchased this pocket heater to continue his testing and signed an agreement not to share any of the information with foreign entities.
Federal prosecutors have filed charges against the 57-year old physicist, citing 2010 emails that they believed linked him to sending information about and schematics of the pocket heater, sensitive United States defense technology, to Chinese contacts. The thin-film research conducted for the pocket heater has helped revolutionize many electrical products such as computer and smartphone chips, as well as various items used by the military.
Xi was charged with four counts of wire fraud based on this information. He pleaded not guilty to the charges and posted $100,000 bail. The espionage charges were dropped after Xi and his attorney, Peter Zeidenberg, presented evidence from experts that proved that the schematics found in Xi’s email were not the schematics of the pocket heater. Zeidenberg blamed the U.S. government’s lack of technical knowledge in the field, telling The Philadelphia Inquirer, “That’s the problem. It’s very technical and I think what happened is that certain assumptions were made that were incorrect.” The District Attorney’s office asked that the case be dismissed without prejudice, meaning that if new evidence were to turn up, the case could be revived again.
“We are very relieved and pleased that common sense has prevailed,” Zeidenberg wrote in an email to The Triangle.
Ray Betzner, spokesperson for Temple University, told The Triangle, “We are very pleased that, with this matter now behind him, Dr. Xi can once again turn his full attention to conducting his research at Temple University.”
“It is important to note that Dr. Xi suspended his chairman and classroom teaching duties so he could focus on his defense,” Betzner continued.
Xi remains a tenured professor at Temple University and continues to have full access to his office and lab for his scholarly activities, yet has resigned from his position as a chairman of the department.
According to the Inquirer, Zeidenberg called the experience “absolutely devastating” for Xi’s family, while Xi’s daughter, Joyce Xi, said that “We’re relieved that the charges against our father have been dismissed.”
A judge has yet to rule on the District Attorney’s motion to dismiss. Meanwhile, officials in Washington continue to consider sanctions against China in response to what is believed to be a persistent cyber espionage campaign against the United States.