Protesters react to prison sentence for Amish farmer
An Amish man was sentenced Friday to six years in prison for obstructing a federal agency and for making and selling herbal health products that were not adequately labeled as required by federal law.
Samuel A. Girod of Bath County, a member of the Old Order Amish faith, was convicted in March on 13 charges, including threatening a person in an attempt to stop him from providing information to a grand jury.
U.S. District Judge Danny Reeves repeatedly asked Girod in court if he wished to make a statement but Girod refused. Girod, who represented himself, does not acknowledge that the court has jurisdiction.
“I do not waive my immunity to this court,” Girod told the judge. “I do not consent.”
Girod has become a cause for some who see him as a victim of the federal government. More than 27,000 people have signed an online petition seeking to have him released from jail. About 75 supporters of Girod, including many Amish, gathered near the federal courthouse on Barr Street in downtown Lexington before and after the sentencing.
“We still have a country where people still come together to help each other,” said Emanuel Schlabach, 27, an Amish man from Logan County.
As assistant U.S. attorneys left the courthouse after the sentencing, Girod supporters jeered them. “Shame on you!” shouted one supporter.
One non-Amish supporter, Richard Mack of Arizona, said after the sentencing that, “This is a national disgrace and outrage. ... He is being punished for being stubborn.”
Mack, a former Arizona sheriff and political activist, said he and others will ask President Donald Trump to issue a pardon to Girod. Mack said he has used Girod’s chickweed salve with no ill effects.
Girod operated a business in Bath County that made products to be used for skin disorders, sinus infections and cancer.
One product called TO-MOR-GONE contained an extract of bloodroot that had a caustic, corrosive effect on human skin, according to an indictment.
A federal court in Missouri had barred Girod from distributing the products until he met certain conditions, including letting the U.S. Food and Drug Administration inspect his business. But when two agents tried to inspect the plant in November 2013, Girod and others blocked them and made them leave, the indictment charged.
Federal prosecutors said in a sentencing memorandum that Girod knowingly and intentionally sold misbranded products to customers and did not tell any of them about the injunction.
At trial, customers testified that they would not have purchased his products if they had known about the injunction.
Girod argued that his products weren’t subject to Federal Drug Administration oversight because they were herbal remedies, not drugs.
He also argued 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.
Federal jurors rejected Girod’s defense, 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 before a hearing; and distributing misbranded drugs.
In the matter of TO-MOR-GONE, the jury decided 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.
In documents filed June 19, Girod argued that the charges in the indictment “do not apply to me.”
“I am not a creation of state/government, as such I am not within its jurisdiction,” Girod wrote. He added later: “The proceedings of the ‘United States District Court’ cannot be applied within the jurisdiction of the ‘State of Kentucky.’”
Girod’s supporters outside the courthouse said his case is an example of overreach by the federal government.
“I don’t need the FDA to protect me from an Amish farmer,” read a sign held by T.J. Roberts, a Transylvania University student from Boone County.
“I feel what happened here is an example of judges making the law,” Roberts said. “What the FDA did here is an example of executive overreach in which they are choosing what Americans can put in or on their own bodies. I struggle to find where the victim is in this and where the crime was committed.”
But Judge Reeves said Girod brought the trouble on himself “because he steadfastly refused to follow the law.”
To Girod, Reeves said, “You refused to follow anyone but yourself.”