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Plea agreement reached in Wen Ho Lee case; hearing resumes
ALBUQUERQUE, New Mexico (CNN) -- A hearing resumed Wednesday for nuclear scientist Wen Ho Lee where he is expected to sign a plea agreement that could set him free.
"We now have a final plea agreement acceptable to both sides," Judge James Parker said prior to the hearing. Parker said all that remained was for Lee's attorneys to go over the deal with their client and for Lee to sign it.
Lee, 60, is expected to plead guilty to one of 59 counts of illegally copying nuclear design secrets, and be sentenced to the nine months he has already served while awaiting trial.
As part of the agreement, Lee is expected to agree to help the FBI find out what happened to seven computer tapes he downloaded nuclear secrets onto. Lee says he destroyed the tapes but prosecutors say there is no proof of that and the tapes could still exist.
Former Deputy Associate Attorney General Jeffrey Harris told CNN that one of the holdups might be that prosecutors do not think Lee will tell them everything they want to know and Lee's attorneys don't trust the government.
"The defense attorneys have a well founded fear, especially considering how the government has handled this up until now, that Wen Ho Lee is going to go home, they're going to debrief him, then the government is going to run into court and say 'We don't think he's been truthful, he's violated the plea agreement' and throw him back in jail," Harris said.
The plea deal would bring an abrupt end to what was originally touted as a major case of Chinese nuclear espionage and which has mobilized Asian-Americans angered by the perception that Lee was singled out by race because of his ethnic Chinese background.
Lee was fired last year by Los Alamos National Laboratory, where he worked in the top-secret X Division designing the nation's nuclear arsenal, amid government allegations China was spying on the lab's weapons designs.
CNN National Correspondent Tony Clark and Reuters contributed to this report.
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