Author: By Judy Foreman, Globe Staff

Date: 07/14/1992 Page: 3

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 paper.

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 probe.

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 Imanishi-Kari hired.

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."

Last modified: Wed Sep 20 17:05:45 EDT 2000