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Wen Ho Lee Expected to Plead Guilty to One Count, Walk Free on Time ServedAired September 11, 2000 - 2:01 p.m. ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
LOU WATERS, CNN ANCHOR: Computer security at Los Alamos Nuclear Lab has grabbed headlines for the past 18 months. But in about two hours, the case is set to come to what looks like a dramatic end. Fired nuclear scientist Wen Ho Lee, once vilified by the feds as a dangerous spy, is expected to walk.
CNN national correspondent Tony Clark joins us now from Albuquerque to bring us up to speed on the story -- Tony.
TONY CLARK, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Lou, this started out as an espionage investigation, but when the grand jury last December handed up this indictment, Wen Ho Lee was not charged with espionage. In fact, it was simply with the downloading materials.
Today, when he pleads guilt as part of a plea agreement, he will be pleading guilty to one of the 59 counts, and that is simply having unauthorized possession, access, or control of documents and writings related to the national defense, not of spying.
Wen Ho Lee arrived here at the federal courthouse earlier this morning from the cell he has had since last December. He has been held in solitary confinement since his arrest in December.
The 60-year-old Taiwan born mechanical engineer was accused of mishandling information, nuclear weapons information, and his position at Los Alamos Laboratory. He was accused of downloading secret material on to computer tapes, 10 computer tapes, seven of those which are still missing, three have been turned over to authorities.
As part of the plea agreement, Lee will talk to authorities over the next six months about what happened to those seven missing computer tapes.
At his neighborhood in White Rock, which is just a short distance from Los Alamos, neighbors are putting out welcome signs and flags hoping to give Wen Ho Lee a festive welcome home ceremony this afternoon.
But there is also a degree of caution, because they have been thinking for some time that he would be allowed to come home only to be disappointed. The judge in this case earlier said that Lee could be placed on house detention, allowed to go home. Prosecutors fought that very strongly saying that Lee had downloaded the so-called "crown jewels" of nuclear secrets from the United States and that he was a danger.
But now they have agreed to this plea agreement and, this afternoon, Wen Ho Lee is expected to go home -- Lou.
WATERS: Tony, did the government overreach here, first of all, vilified for being a spy, Wen Ho Lee will walk free with the equivalent of a jaywalking charge.
CLARK: Well, it still will be a felony charge and he will be sentenced to the time served, his nine months in solitary confinement. So it is a rather harsh sentence.
But the government's case, as it has gone along, has seemed to unravel. It has never seemed to be as strong as initially presented. That's why the judge in this case, Judge Parker, said just last month, that he thought it was a lot, in his word, I think grayer, it was a lot less firm than the government had laid out originally.
Testimony that the FBI had presented did not -- in second analysis did not seem as strong. And what Wen Ho Lee had said and his attorneys have said was that he was being picked out because he was a Taiwan nationally, a Chinese American, and that he was singled out, he was profiled, and he was charged just because of his heritage and not because of what he did.
WATERS: National correspondent Tony Clark in Albuquerque today,
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