LEXINGTON, Ky. – An Amish farmer has been sentenced to six years in federal prison for selling improperly labeled herbal salve.
U.S. District Judge Danny Reeves handed down the sentence against Samuel Girod on Friday in Lexington.
Outraged supporters of the rural Kentucky farmer pledged to seek a pardon from President Donald Trump.
Girod, 57, had been making and selling Chickweed Salve for years from his farm in Bath County, a half hour drive east of Lexington. The Food and Drug Administration labeled Girod’s salve a drug, which brought it under federal regulation.
Prosecutors accused Girod of manufacturing the herbal salve in an establishment that was not registered with the FDA, and packaged in a container that “failed to bear labeling containing adequate directions for use.”
Reeves ordered Girod to pay $14,239 in restitution and another $100 per count assessment equaling $1,300. In addition to his sentence, Girod was ordered to three years of supervised release after which he could resume making his products in a legal manner.
Girod, who represented himself, declined the judge’s invitation to make a statement at Friday's sentencing.
“I do not waive my immunity to this court,” Girod told the judge. “I do not consent.”
Carlton S. Shier, IV, Acting U. S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Kentucky, said Girod “brazenly placed the public at risk” by manufacturing and selling homemade products to businesses in numerous states that do not comply with FDA regulations. Shier said one of his products was dangerous when used as recommended and all three products were advertised in a way that did not comply with the law.
Girod’s products were marketed to treat numerous health problems, including skin disorders, sinus infections and cancer.
Prosecutory evidence showed that a federal judge in Missouri ordered Girod to stop manufacturing and selling his products in 2013 until his labeling and advertisement of the products met FDA regulations. Despite the court order, Girod continued to make and sell his products in Indiana, Wisconsin and Illinois.
As part of the 2013 order, inspections of Girod’s facility in Bath County were required to ensure his compliance. In November 2013, two FDA Consumer Safety Officers tried to inspect Girod’s facility, but they were prevented by Girod and others on his property.
The U. S. Attorney’s office said after the criminal case against him began, Girod tampered with a witness, failed to appear for court proceedings, and was a fugitive for several months.
Girod’s appointed standby attorney, Michael Fox of Olive Hill, described defending his reluctant client. “Early on, Sam told me the only counsel he would follow was from Jesus Christ. Unfortunately, when you don’t have someone familiar with the legal process, there’s likely to be a bad result.”
“I don’t think there was ill intent,” said Fox. “Sam Girod does not want to hurt anyone, and the evidence at trial was that no one was ever hurt. His punishment of six years in prison is a harsh punishment.”
Close to 100 supporters of Girod, including many in the Amish community, waited outside the federal courthouse for the results of the sentencing. Former Arizona Sheriff Richard Mack was among them.
“This is absolutely insanity,” Mack said. “What is the number one thing that government is supposed to be doing in our country? Preventing injustice. And they’re the ones promoting it today. This is the FDA and Judge Reeves creating a criminal out of an innocent Amish farmer.”
Reeves said Girod would not accept responsibility for his actions and recognized no one’s rules but his own.
Speaking to Girod, Reeves said, “You refuse to listen to anyone but yourself or the advice you’re getting from supporters. And you’ve been getting bad advice.”
Judge Reeves ordered the district court clerk to file a notice of appeal on behalf of Girod, to the U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati.