ROANOKE, Va. (WDBJ7) - Former Virginia Tech Professor Yiheng Zhang will not have to remain in jail until the outcome of his trial.
The decision was made Thursday at a hearing to revoke a federal magistrate judge's detention order to keep Zhang in custody until the outcome of his trial.
According to Zhang's attorney Scott Austin, the former engineering professor will be granted release once several documents are supplied to the court.
Austin expects Zhang to be released a few days after Christmas.
Zhang was formally charged in late November, with one count of conspiring to defraud the United States, three counts of making false statements within the jurisdiction of the United States, and three counts of making false claims to the United States.
He had been arrested in late September. Several days after the arrest, a federal judge ruled Zhang would not be granted bond during a detention and bond hearing where the government argued Zhang would be a flight risk.
Shortly after the grand jury returned an official indictment, Austin submitted a motion to the district court on November 20 to review and revoke the magistrate judge's detention order.
The court took evidence and heard arguments for a few hours on Friday, December 8 then continued the hearing until the following Thursday where a judge agreed to the release of Zhang once documents are given to the court.
Prosecutors say Zhang applied for $600,000 in grant funding through the National Science Foundation (NSF) under the premise that the money would be used for research on certain projects.
Prosecutors accused Zhang of using the money for other purposes. In their statement, prosecutors wrote that Zhang, in an email to a CFB employee, stated: “What we expect here is to get this free money and use half of the money to do what you want to do to do – make sweeteners. Another half will be used to pay VT graduate students to finish this project.”
Zhang's defense team has said they will continue to fight the charges in court.
Austin believes it could be up to two years before Zhang's trial.