Samuel Girod, an Amish farmer living in Kentucky, faces nearly seven decades in federal prison for making natural salves and creams which the FDA alleges were “mislabeled.”
Since October 2015, Amish farmer Samuel Girod, 52, has been facing a 12-count federal indictment and total of 68 years in federal prison. While such harsh sentences are normally reserved for serious and/or violent crimes, Girod – in contrast – stands accused of selling herbal products that he made in his own kitchen.
Girod’s legal troubles started several years prior in 2013 after a disgruntled customer reported his natural products to the state health department in Missouri. These concerns eventually made their way in front of a federal judge who placed an injunction on Girod’s products, banning him from creating more until he met certain conditions. Among these conditions were federally-mandated inspections of his family’s farm in Bath County, Kentucky where Girod lives with his wife, 12 children and 25 grandchildren. When federal inspectors arrived, Girod and others allegedly prevented them from inspecting his workspace, leading to an escalation of the charges Girod initially faced.
Local residents are baffled as to why Girod is facing charges. “I can’t even figure out what he has done wrong,” said Suza Moody, a Bath county resident. “They live at the foot of the cross and the thought of one of them intentionally doing something wrong is outrageous.” A friend of Girod’s, Sally Oh, said that his family is “just devastated. I mean when they brought him out in handcuffs… It was awful.”
The charges against Girod are mostly related to the labeling of his products. According to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), Girod allegedly distributed pamphlets suggesting that his products could be used to treat various medical ailments. The FDA has used this as the basis for its claims that Girod’s products are legally-defined as “drugs” despite the fact that multiple tests have confirmed that the products do not contain such substances.
One of the products at the heart of the issues is Girod’s Chickweed salve, which includes rosemary, beeswax, and olive oil among its ingredients. According to Sally Oh, the FDA complained about the label, which said it could be used to “cure cancer.” After the FDA told Girod he could not make such claims, “he changed it to say ‘Healing Chickweed,’ but they said no you can’t say healing. So now it just says ‘Original Chickweed,” Oh explained. The FDA has asserted that because Girod’s products are “drugs,” his failure to register his farm as a drug production facility constitutes a criminal act.
Since his initial indictment in 2015, Girod fired his appointed attorney, instead choosing to represent himself. He attempted to file a motion to dismiss his case due to a lack of due process, standing and jurisdiction. A warrant was later issued for Girod’s arrest when he failed to appear at a status conference last August. For about five months, Girod was legally considered a fugitive until he was arrested at his home in January. He is currently in jail awaiting his trial, scheduled for the end of this month.
Some, including Sally Oh, have argued that Girod’s case is indicative of the federal government targeting the Amish. “They are targeting the Amish because they don’t threaten. They don’t fight back, and they don’t like lawyers,” Oh told WKYT. Even the Bath County Sheriff expressed his concerns, saying that was worried about the “ongoing ruthless and relentless attack against one of his constituents.” The U.S. Attorney’s office has maintained that this is far from the truth, stating that “in cases like this, our interests are ensuring that drugs that are made available to the public are safe for consumption and ensuring the integrity of the judicial process.”
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