Nov 172013
 

Georgia Institute of Technology (Georgia Tech) campus, Atlanta, GA, USA. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Joy Laskar was not what you’d typically think of as a threat to public safety.

At the Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta, where he was a professor of electrical engineering, Dr. Laskar did research on chip design. He mentored dozens of Ph.D. students and, over the years, started and sold a number of tech companies. The last one, called Sayana, created a promising wireless chip and was being courted by the likes of Samsung and Qualcomm.

But on May 17, 2010, agents from the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, wearing bulletproof vests, raided his university offices. A parallel scene played out at Dr. Laskar’s home, where his wife, Devi Laskar, found armed agents in her driveway. While agents went through the house and confiscated files and computer equipment, she went to a coffee shop to call a lawyer.

“What were they looking for?” Dr. Laskar said in disbelief, recounting the event recently. “Cash under the bed? Chips in the ceiling?”

The day of the raid, there was to be an auction for Sayana. It never happened. Instead, Dr. Laskar was suspended without pay from his tenured position. He was later arrested on state racketeering charges and eventually fired by Georgia Tech, accused of misusing university resources.

“It was devastating, absolutely devastating,” he said.

In one day, his life was upended. But why it was upended — and why university officials and authorities in Georgia acted so aggressively — is still leaving people in high-tech circles scratching their heads.

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