MILWAUKEE (AP) -

A Chinese researcher was sentenced Tuesday to time served plus two years of probation on charges stemming from the theft of a research drug from a Wisconsin medical school.

Hua Jun Zhao, 41, had pleaded guilty in July to a reduced charge of illegally downloading research data from the Medical College of Wisconsin, where he worked as a researcher.

Federal court guidelines called for a sentence of six to 12 months, but U.S. District Judge Charles Clevert agreed with the defense's recommendation that Zhao be sentenced to time served for the 4½ months he has already spent behind bars.

A federal complaint accused Zhao of stealing a possible cancer-fighting compound and its accompanying research with the intent of passing it off as his own in China. The compound was never found.

Zhao told the judge Tuesday that he only wanted to protect the data and that he never intended to profit from it.

"Please consider the possible damage to cancer research if the world views me as a criminal instead of as a dedicated research scientist," he said.

There were several Medical College of Wisconsin officials in the courtroom, but declined the judge's invitation to speak before the sentencing.

Federal prosecutor Stephen Ingraham said he didn't raise the issue of the still-missing drug compound because he couldn't prove Zhao took it. Ingraham, who had requested a sentence within the federal guidelines, said the thought the judge handled the issues fairly.