A New York jury has found Hengjun Chao, a former research assistant professor at Mount Sinai, guilty of attempted second degree murder and two other charges.
Last year, Chao shot Dennis Charney, a Mount Sinai dean who had fired him in 2010 for misconduct, outside of a deli in a wealthy New York suburb. After the incident, Chao admitted to police he shot Charney. During the trial, Chao’s lawyer argued that Chao had done so to draw attention to what he believed to be misconduct at Mount Sinai.
As reported by the Chappaqua Patch, in addition to one count of attempted second degree murder, Chao was convicted of one count of criminal use of a firearm and one count of assault. He faces a maximum of 25 years in state prison.
Chao’s attorney, Stewart Orden, told Retraction Watch:
I, along with my client, am extremely disappointed in the verdict and I believe there are extremely strong grounds for an appeal in this case.
According to a statement issued yesterday by Westchester County District Attorney Anthony Scarpino, surveillance video footage showed Chao had been stalking Charney for several days before the shooting.
On the morning of Aug. 29, 2016, as Charney exited Lange’s Deli in Chappaqua, Chao took a shotgun from the trunk of his car, walked over to Charney, and shot him once in the chest and shoulder area. According to the district attorney:
Subsequent to his arrest, the defendant stated to police that he was the one who shot the victim.
Six years prior, in 2010, Charney had fired Chao for committing research misconduct. The investigation report said Chao directed a postdoc to manipulate data and “promoted a laboratory culture and authoritarianism.” However, the Office of Research Integrity decided not to pursue the case against Chao.
Chao had himself accused others at Mount Sinai of research misconduct. Orden told Retraction Watch that Chao believed he had uncovered evidence of misconduct by Charney and several other high-profile researchers relating to the anti-depressant drug Paxil, and that “Dr. Charney had published things he himself had not written, while taking attribution for them.”
As reported by The Journal News last week, at the trial Orden argued:
[Chao] fired a shotgun at Charney for the publicity so he could shed light on the “large-scale fraud” that he uncovered at Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York City, where Charney is dean.
“The more he learned, the more he believed he had to do something,” Orden told the jury before Judge Barry Warhit. “He planned on having press coverage of what he had to say.”
Chao, 50, is being held in jail and will be sentenced Aug. 16.
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