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Plea agreement reached in Wen Ho Lee case; hearing resumes

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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.

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Pierre Thomas reports on the plea agreement that could free Wen Ho Lee (Sept. 10)

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CNN's Tony Clark reports on the Wen Ho Lee hearing postponed until Wednesday (Sept. 11)

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TIME analysis: Wen Ho Lee case: More like Dreyfus than Rosenbergs
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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.



RELATED STORIES:
Attorneys work on terms of plea bargain for jailed scientist
September 12, 2000
TIME.com: Wen Ho Lee case: More like Dreyfus than Rosenbergs
September 11, 2000
Wen Ho Lee hearing postponed until Wednesday
September 11, 2000
Emergency hearing called in Wen Ho Lee case
September 1, 2000
FBI begins search of Wen Ho Lee's home
August 31, 2000
Judge orders bail for Wen Ho Lee, but U.S prosecutors likely to appeal
August 29, 2000
Hearing underway on details of Wen Ho Lee's release
August 25, 2000
Judge urges mediation in Los Alamos scientist case, sources say
August 25, 2000
Terms of Wen Ho Lee's release to be discussed Tuesday
August 24, 2000
Judge needs more time to decide on release of Los Alamos scientist
August 18, 2000
Scientist charged in nuclear secrets case may have been job-hunting instead
July 7, 2000
Wen Ho Lee sues FBI, other agencies
December 20, 1999
Wen Ho Lee indicted, arrested in Los Alamos case
December 10, 1999

RELATED SITES:
The Trial of Ethel and Julius Rosenberg
WenHoLee.org
U.S. Department of Justice
Los Alamos National Laboratory


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