Postdoc found dead in jail cell
Arrested in Colo. for arranging sex with minors
Yaron Segal, arrested on March 28 for allegedly arranging a sexual encounter with minors, died on Friday, April 13. An Israeli national, Segal was a postdoc in MIT’s Photovoltaic Research Lab (PVLab) and had received his PhD in physics from Yale last year.
Segal was found unresponsive in his cell, hanging from a homemade noose, at the Federal Correctional Institution in Englewood, Colorado, at 12:49 p.m. last Friday, according to John Sell, the facility’s spokesperson. There is an ongoing investigation regarding the circumstances of his death.
In light of his death, all three counts of indictment against Segal were dismissed on Tuesday, and the criminal case was closed.
“He was well-respected among his peers as a brilliant, creative, and dedicated scientist,” said Assistant Professor Tonio Buonassisi, the principal investigator (PI) of the PVLab of the Department of Mechanical Engineering, to the MIT News Office.
After having corresponded online for just under two months with what he thought was a mother of two children under the ages of 16 and 12, Segal flew from Cambridge to Grand Junction, Colo. on March 28, allegedly to meet them for a sexual encounter. However, the mother was in fact undercover Special Agent Vanessa Hipps of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Homeland Security Investigation, who met Segal at the Grand Junction airport where he was immediately arrested by federal authorities.
On March 29, Buonassisi submitted to the U.S. District Court a letter from his perspective as the PI of the PVLab, describing Segal as a “productive” postdoc who was “a leader within [his] research group, closely mentoring five graduate students” and participated in projects for “communal benefit.” Segal, deemed a flight risk and denied bail on April 4 despite this account, had been remanded to the custody of the U.S. Marshal. He could have faced a maximum of 30 years of imprisonment and/or a maximum fine of $250,000 if convicted.