BALTIMORE COLLEAGUE WON'T BE INDICTED
TUFTS RESEARCHER WAS PROBE TARGET
Author: By Judy Foreman, Globe Staff
After a more than yearlong probe, the US attorney's office in Maryland
announced yesterday that it will not indict Tufts University researcher
Thereza Imanishi-Kari on allegations of falsifying data in a 1986 research
The action means no criminal charges will be brought against Imanishi-Kari
in connection with the paper on immunology she coauthored with Nobel laureate
David Baltimore. A separate inquiry into the case is pending at the US
Department of Health and Human Services, however.
Baltimore, a professor of biology at Rockefeller University in New York,
said through a spokesman that he will now ask the scientific journal Cell to
reinstate the 1986 paper, which he had retracted when the government began its
US Attorney Richard D. Bennett said he took the unusual step of announcing
the decision not to prosecute because the case had generated wide publicity.
Baltimore, traveling to a scientific conference, told the Associated Press
that the decision was "a complete vindication of my own position" that there
was no fraud.
"In the end, our decision was based on our belief that a criminal courtroom
was not the appropriate forum in which this should be decided," said Jeff
Garinther, an assistant US attorney, in a telephone interview. "We should not
ask nonscientists hearing evidence over a week or more to decide an issue that
scientists have been debating for years."
The grand jury had been weighing allegations that the data falsification
constituted obstruction of justice in the government's attempts to get to the
bottom of the case.
The case is still "open" at the federal Office of Research Integrity, said
spokesman Dan Ralbovsky. On March 20, 1991, the office, then called the Office
of Scientific Integrity, issued a draft report concluding that Imanishi-Kari
had fabricated data in responding to its questions about her research. The
office has taken no action since.
The report said Imanishi-Kari had committed "serious research misconduct"
and "repeatedly presented false and misleading information" to the agency. The
draft did not accuse Baltimore of fabricating data but said his handling of
the case was "deeply troubling."
Amid controversy over the case, Baltimore resigned the presidency of
Rockefeller University last December. Once head of the Whitehead Institute for
Biomedical Research in Cambridge and a biology professor at Massachusetts
Institute of Technology, Baltimore has said he will return to MIT in 1994.
Imanishi-Kari's lawyer, Bruce Singal, said the decision not to indict
hinged on an affidavit submitted by Albert Lyter 3d, a forensic specialist
Lyter challenged evidence compiled by Secret Service agents indicating
that Imanishi-Kari had tampered with her computer tapes and research
notebooks, saying it did not support the Secret Service's conclusions.
Rep. John Dingell (D-Mich.), who held hearings on the case in 1988, 1989
and 1990, said in a statement, "The decision not to prosecute does not change
the fact that the Cell paper was retracted because of serious and extensive
irregularities. Nor does it change the fact that the experiments in question
have not been replicated . . . We understand the matter will be sent back to
HHS for possible administrative action."