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Archive for Wednesday, August 30, 2000

Scientist’s release expected soon

August 30, 2000

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— Barring an appeal by the government, fired Los Alamos National Laboratory scientist Wen Ho Lee should be free on bail by Friday, a federal judge said Tuesday. A prosecutor said the government is likely to appeal.

U.S. District Judge James Parker ordered the government to complete its search of Lee's home and complete conditions for his release on $1 million bail by noon Friday.

Lee, 60, has been jailed since his arrest Dec. 10 on 59 counts alleging he transferred restricted data to unsecure computers and tape at laboratory. He was twice previously refused bail, including once by Parker in December. But last week Parker said the case for holding Lee at the Santa Fe County jail is no longer as compelling.

The court recessed to give the two sides time to work out conditions of release, and a final order was expected today.

Assistant U.S. attorney George Stamboulidis said the government may well appeal the release order. He said one area of concern: the unrestricted communication allowed between Lee and his wife, Sylvia, in their home.

Stamboulidis said the search of Lee's home would take two days, and asked for a seven-day stay to allow his office to seek advice from the Justice Department's solicitor general.

Parker refused, and gave Stamboulidis until noon Friday to get the solicitor general's approval of Lee's release.

While Tuesday's discussions mainly concerned the conditions that would be placed on Lee's release, government officials were reserving the right in their appeal to contest the release itself, Stamboulidis said.

The defense agreed to allow language prohibiting Sylvia Lee from carrying messages from Lee to anyone except his lawyers and the couple's neighbors Don and Jean Marshall. The Marshalls, who both have top-security clearances in their work at Los Alamos National Laboratory, are to serve as Lee's custodians during his release.

Earlier this month, an FBI counterintelligence agent, Robert Messemer, acknowledged some errors in his December testimony on which Parker had relied in refusing bail. And the defense produced some respected scientists who disputed the secrecy value of the material Lee is accused of downloading.

Lee's daughter, Alberta Lee, said during the recess that the government had access to all the information that has come out in the months since the initial bail hearings last December.

"It really shows how the last eight months have been a huge injustice," she said. Alberta Lee lives in the San Francisco Bay area but came to the courthouse Tuesday and sat with her mother. The mother was not expected to comment, said a family spokeswoman, Stacy Cohen.

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