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Reedley Illegal Biolab Suspect Pleads Not Guilty in Federal Court
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By David Taub, Senior Reporter
Published 6 months ago on
October 24, 2023

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A suspect in the alleged illegal Reedley biolab pled not guilty in a Fresno federal court Tuesday afternoon.

Through his attorney, noted defender Tony Capozzi, David He entered not guilty pleas to two counts — misbranded medical devices and making false statements to federal authorities.

Federal, state, and local officials shut down the lab in March, deeming it to be operating without proper licensing. The companies behind the lab made test kits for COVID-19, pregnancy, and other diseases. Thousands of lab mice were discovered and eventually destroyed.

Court documents initially identified He as Jia Bei Zhu, and he was referred as such by U.S. Magistrate Judge Erica Grosjean. Capozzi asked the judge to make a true name finding of He — one of his aliases listed in arrest documents — and she complied.

He appeared in person in court, sitting in the front row of the jury box. He wore a red jail jumpsuit and had a listening device to hear an interpreter. He did not show any reaction to the proceedings.

Grosjean set the next court date for Nov. 8, for both a preliminary hearing and a detention hearing. He will remain in custody until then.

Capozzi said pretrial services had not yet interviewed He to determine if he is a flight risk or a danger to the community.

Prosecutor Joseph Barton with the U.S. Attorney’s Office had no comment.

Attorney Defends Lab Work

“The research he’s been working on will be very helpful to, I can’t get into specifics, but be very helpful to mankind.”Defense attorney Tony Capozzi

Capozzi said his client conducted research at the Reedley biolab.

“The government came in and seized all the research that he had, and destroyed it. The research he’s been working on will be very helpful, I can’t get into specifics, but be very helpful to mankind. I can tell you that this research is something that’s new and revolutionary and (he) has been doing very well with that,” Capozzi said.

He was arrested by Food and Drug Administration authorities in a sting operation in Reedley on Oct. 19.

He is not a flight risk, Capozzi said.

“He’s the meekest person who’s very intelligent. He has an M.D. degree from China. He has a master’s degree beyond medical school. He went on to get an additional degree in research because he wanted to research DNA, embryos, things of that nature, stem cell research,” Capozzi said.

He was living in Las Vegas at the time of his arrest and returned to Reedley for what he believed to be a meeting with city manager Nicole Zieba about the building lease. It turned out it was an FDA sting operation.

“He was surprised. He had no idea,” Capozzi said.

Capozzi also downplayed the national political implications of the case. At least two congressional committees say they will investigate.

“Way out of context. It is political jargon. They are trying to make a mountain out of a molehill,” Capozzi said. “It is nothing as the government has portrayed.”

Capozzi Questions Resisting Arrest Allegations

In his first court appearance last Friday, He appeared with bandages on his nose and forehead. A Department of Justice official said He resisted arrest. Capozzi had doubts.

“I questioned whether he understood what the agents were telling him. From what I understand, he was told to turn around and told to put his hands up. He sort of did that. The agents in their reports said he was confused and didn’t comply with everything they said. So they came in and tried to grab his hands and pushed him down to the ground, face-first into the ground,” Capozzi said.

Although he wasn’t wearing bandages on Tuesday, Capozzi said his client is still suffering from the injuries.

There is a possibility that He could be deported if convicted, Capozzi said.

Capozzi said he came to defend He after being contacted by the suspect’s Southern California civil attorney. As a Chinese citizen, He is allowed to contact the Chinese consulate — its office is in San Francisco. Capozzi said the Chinese government has not been involved.

 

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David Taub,
Senior Reporter
Curiosity drives David Taub. The award-winning journalist might be shy, but feels mighty with a recorder in his hand. He doesn't see it his job to "hold public officials accountable," but does see it to provide readers (and voters) the information needed to make intelligent choices. Taub has been honored with several writing awards from the California News Publishers Association. He's just happy to have his stories read. Joining GV Wire in 2016, Taub covers politics, government and elections, mainly in the Fresno/Clovis area. He also writes columns about local eateries (Appetite for Fresno), pro wrestling (Off the Bottom Rope), and media (Media Man). Prior to joining the online news source, Taub worked as a radio producer for KMJ and PowerTalk 96.7 in Fresno. He also worked as an assignment editor for KCOY-TV in Santa Maria, California, and KSEE-TV in Fresno. He has also worked behind the scenes for several sports broadcasts, including the NCAA basketball tournament, and the Super Bowl. When not spending time with his family, Taub loves to officially score Fresno Grizzlies games. Growing up in the San Francisco Bay Area, Taub is a die-hard Giants and 49ers fan. He graduated from the University of Michigan with dual degrees in communications and political science. Go Blue! You can contact David at 559-492-4037 or at Send an Email

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