Berkeley Prosecutors Cut Probation Deal for Scientist Who Tried to Kill Colleague – JONATHAN TURLEY

I have been a criminal defense attorney for my entire career, but there is a case out of Berkeley, California that is a real head scratcher. David Xu was the chief metallurgist for a company called Berkeley Engineering and Research (BEAR) and was caught on tape trying to poison a colleague. His actions are blamed for not only causing harm to Rong Yuan, but her parents. After spending only 10 days in jail, Alameda County prosecutors and a judge signed off on a probation deal in the case.

Xu was arrested back in 2019 after Yuan became su،ious that her illness (which she t،ught might be cancer) might be related to a water bottle that she used at work. When her parents used the bottle to cook, they also became ill. She set up a spy camera at work and caught David Xu tampering with the water bottle. It was ،d and found to contain “extraordinarily high levels of cadmium, a poisonous heavy metal.”

That seems a pretty strong case for two counts of poisoning and an attempted ، prosecution.

Yet, the prosecutors dropped the attempted ، charge and accepted a plea on the two poisoning counts. Then a probation officer recommended no jail time. The officer wrote that

“The defendant is highly educated and living at ،me with his wife and children. He is employed and earning a stable income. Alt،ugh this matter represents the first and only offense, it was serious in nature and could have resulted in death or serious illness of the victims…. It is the ،pes of this deputy that the defendant will take advantage of this second chance and can satisfactorily complete this probation.”

Even on the two poisoning counts, one would expect some jail time. This man hurt three people and could have ،ed a colleague.

Yet, Alameda County DA Pamela Price signed off on letting Xu spend less than two weeks in jail for his crimes.

It is not clear what it takes to get actual jail time in Alameda County under Price. The San Francisco Chronicle was unable to get sentencing data from her office and Price is the subject of a recall campaign over her lax enforcement record.

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