About 50 members of the Amish faith — men, women and children — from Bath County descended on the Kentucky Capitol on Tuesday, seeking help for a friend convicted of violating federal laws.
Samuel A. Girod, a member of the Old Order Amish faith, is scheduled to be sentenced June 30 in Lexington for selling improperly labeled health products and 12 other charges, including threatening a person in an attempt to stop him from providing information to a grand jury. The most serious charge carries a maximum sentence of 20 years.
A federal jury convicted Girod in March, saying he made and sold herbal health products that were not adequately labeled, including one that was dangerous when used as suggested on the package.
Family and friends of Girod crowded in front of Gov. Matt Bevin’s office Tuesday but were told the governor was in Paris, France, on an economic development trip.
They stood outside the office of Attorney General Andy Beshear but were told the state’s chief law enforcement official was speaking elsewhere at a human trafficking conference. Beshear spokesman Terry Sebastian said a representative from the office listened to their concerns and told them the office would review the case.
Alan Hoyle, who described himself as an evangelist from North Carolina, was the group’s spokesman in the Capitol. None of the Amish members would provide their name to a reporter or allow their picture to be taken.
Hoyle said he heard about the case in the news and offered his support to the Amish.
“We have a case here where an Amish man has been sitting in federal prison since January, awaiting sentencing for something he did that was his constitutional right,” said Hoyle.
He said Girod, 56, has been legally selling a salve to help skin conditions for about 20 years.
“Federal marshals came to him at gun point and frightened not only him, but his children,” Hoyle said. “We’re now demanding his inalienable rights and demanding the governor and attorney general do what they can do to right this wrong.”
According to court documents, Girod operated a business in Bath County that made products to be used for a variety of health problems, including skin disorders, sinus infections and cancer.
Three products were at issue in the legal case: Chickweed Healing Salve, TO-MOR-GONE and R.E.P.
TO-MOR-GONE contained an extract of bloodroot that had a caustic, corrosive effect on human skin, the indictment charged.
A federal court in Missouri had barred Girod in 2013 from distributing the products until he met certain conditions, including letting the U.S. Food and Drug Administration inspect his business, the indictment said.
However, when two agents tried to inspect his plant in November 2013, Girod and others blocked them and made them leave, the indictment charged.
Girod represented himself, arguing that his products weren’t subject to Federal Drug Administration oversight because they were herbal remedies, not drugs. He referred to himself as “accused, in error.”
Girod also said that requiring FDA approval of his products infringed on his religious freedom. Old Order Amish seek to insulate themselves from the modern world, including modern pharmaceuticals, he said.
Jurors rejected Girod’s defense after about four hours of deliberation, convicting him of conspiring to impede federal officers; obstructing a proceeding before a federal agency; failing to register with the FDA as required; tampering with a witness; failing to appear for a hearing; and distributing misbranded drugs.
The jury ruled that the salves Girod distributed didn’t have adequate directions for use. One element of the charge was that he misbranded the products with the intent to defraud or mislead people.
In the case of TO-MOR-GONE, the jury ruled that the product label didn’t have adequate warnings against its use in cases when using it would be dangerous, and that it would endanger health when used in the dose and manner suggested on the package.
Hoyle said “a large group of Amish” will be at the federal courthouse on June 30 for Girod’s sentencing before U.S. District Judge Danny Reeves.
“We’re going to do everything we can for him,” said Hoyle.