(Reuters) - U.S. prosecutors sought to drop wire fraud charges on Friday against a physicist at Temple University in Philadelphia, nearly four months after he was accused of sharing proprietary U.S. technology with China.
Since a grand jury returned an indictment in May to bring those charges against Xiaoxing Xi, federal prosecutors have obtained additional information, they said in papers filed in federal court in Philadelphia.
"The government submits that it is in the interests of justice to dismiss the indictment without prejudice in order to pursue this additional information," U.S. Attorney David Memeger and an assistant stated in the motion, which gave no further details on the nature of the information.
Xi, an American citizen born in China who is a professor of physics at Temple University, was arrested in May following his indictment. He pleaded not guilty in June, and had faced up to 80 years in prison.
Earlier in the case, prosecutors said Xi, an expert in the field of superconductivity, had a decade-long relationship with Chinese government entities and third parties and frequently collaborated with them on research.
Prosecutors had previously said Xi took a sabbatical from Temple University in Philadelphia from 2002 to 2003 and worked with a U.S. company that invented a device that revolutionized the production of a material for "superconducting" electricity without resistance.
Xi had stood accused of buying one of those devices and sharing the technology with the Chinese entities in violation of his contract with the company, which prohibited such transfers.
Xi's attorney, Peter Zeidenberg, told the Philadelphia Inquirer that U.S. authorities misunderstood the complex science behind the case, before they moved to dismiss the charges.
"It is an extremely technical area," Zeidenberg told the paper. "That's the problem. It's very technical, and I think what happened is that certain assumptions were made that were incorrect."
Zeidenberg could not be reached for comment late on Friday.
The attorney previously told Reuters that Xi, who has lived in the United States since 1989 and has two U.S.-born children, put his house up as collateral to secure his $100,000 bond in the case.
The judge in the case did not immediately respond to the motion by prosecutors to dismiss the four counts of wire fraud.
(Reporting by Alex Dobuzinskis in Los Angeles; Editing by Tom Hogue)