Federal Overreach: Amish Man Sentenced to 6 Years in Prison for Improper FDA Labeling

 

Samuel Girod of Bath County, KY, is an Amish farmer who sold homemade herbal remedies. The FDA saw to it he would spend the next six years in federal prison.

The 56-year-old man created a salve made of chickweed, rosemary, beeswax, and olive oil. The label said it was to treat skin disorders such as “dry skin, cuts, burns, draws, and poison ivy.” Girod also handed out pamphlets touting the product’s effectiveness in treating skin cancer, diaper rash, and fungal infections.

When a Missouri resident filed a complaint, the state health department demanded he remove the language. Girod changed the product’s name to “Healing Chickweed,” agents said the word “healing” was verboten, so he renamed it “Original Chickweed.”

Another of Girod’s products, called TO-MOR-GONE, contains bloodroot and was claimed to be “very good at removing tumors.” This old folk remedy has been practiced for centuries, mostly to remove dead skin layers from around skin tumors and wounds. But bloodroot removes this dead skin due to its caustic properties. The FDA decided this was a danger to the public and demanded to inspect his manufacturing process — in other words, his home.

Girod, stating that his products weren’t subject to FDA oversight because they were herbal remedies, barred their entry. As part of the Old Order Amish community, his religious beliefs mandate that he avoid the modern world as much as possible, including modern pharmaceuticals. Nevertheless, the FDA decided that since Girod made vague medical claims, his products were drugs and subject to the full weight of the federal bureaucracy.

In August of last year, Girod missed a status hearing. This led the federal government to label him a fugitive and they arrested him at his family farm. He was held without bail as the trial proceeded.

Bath County Sheriff John Snedegar petitioned the feds, asking why the FDA was “attacking and victimizing such peaceful and law-abiding Americans,” adding he “would not stand by while the rights of peaceful people are violated.”

Local residents agreed with their sheriff. “I can’t even figure out what he has done wrong,” said neighbor Suza Moody. “They live at the foot of the cross and the thought of one of them intentionally doing something wrong is outrageous.” An online petition generated more than 27,000 signatures seeking his immediate release.

Acting as his own counsel, Girod refused to submit to the federal yoke. “I am not a creation of state/government, as such I am not within its jurisdiction,” he wrote. “The proceedings of the ‘United States District Court’ cannot be applied within the jurisdiction of the ‘State of Kentucky.’”

When the judge asked him to make a statement, Girod said, “I do not waive my immunity to this court. I do not consent.”

As a result, the father to 12 and grandfather to 25 has been sentenced to six years in federal prison, three years supervised release following that, $1,300 in fines, and more than $14,000 restitution for his victimless crime. All because beltway bureaucrats didn’t like an Amish farmer’s homemade labels.

Published in General
Like this post? Want to comment? Join Ricochet’s growing community of conservatives and be part of the conversation. Get your first month free.

Members have made 95 comments.

  1. 1
  2. 2
  3. 3
  4. 4
  1. Profile photo of Penfold Member

    And they didn’t even get to the bottom of this world-wide terrorist organization’s evil plot to avoid slow moving vehicle signs. Well, it’s a start.

    But honestly, I hate this kind of bureaucratic BS. This is how you get more Trump.

    • #1
    • July 6, 2017 at 5:23 pm
    • Like12 likes
  2. Profile photo of Judge Mental Member

    Trump should pardon him. Aside from being a just result, it would be great PR.

    • #2
    • July 6, 2017 at 5:27 pm
    • Like51 likes
  3. Profile photo of Randal H Member

    This is government regulatory insanity in a nutshell. On the one hand, left-leaning-government-regulation-friendly leftists push “small and local” and on the other they push the very regulatory overreach that makes such things impossible.

    This same thing is happening in Europe, where EU bureaucrats have driven many small purveyors of locally produced traditionally cured meats, cheeses, etc. out of business.

    • #3
    • July 6, 2017 at 5:29 pm
    • Like12 likes
  4. Profile photo of EJHill Contributor

    The problem with those old Amish recipes is that they tend to be a bit buggy.

    • #4
    • July 6, 2017 at 5:31 pm
    • Like29 likes
  5. Profile photo of Judge Mental Member

    EJHill (View Comment):
    The problem with those old Amish recipes is that they tend to be a bit buggy.

    You’re lucky the Amish don’t use the Internet, because they would never put up with that joke.

    • #5
    • July 6, 2017 at 5:33 pm
    • Like18 likes
  6. Profile photo of MJBubba Member

    .Judge Mental (View Comment):
    Trump should pardon him. Aside from being a just result, it would be great PR.

    Does the Trump White House website have a petition-generator the way Obama had? We could launch a petition drive for a presidential pardon.

    • #6
    • July 6, 2017 at 5:42 pm
    • Like6 likes
  7. Profile photo of Judge Mental Member

    MJBubba (View Comment):

    .Judge Mental (View Comment):
    Trump should pardon him. Aside from being a just result, it would be great PR.

    Does the Trump White House website have a petition-generator the way Obama had? We could launch a petition drive for a presidential pardon.

    https://petitions.whitehouse.gov/

    I’ll sign.

    • #7
    • July 6, 2017 at 5:48 pm
    • Like8 likes
  8. Profile photo of jonb60173 Member

    all this aside, it appears Samuel was not giving up the “home remedy” business easily. usually when you’re in court when jail time is a possibility the judge kind of insists you have a lawyer (I know from experience – trespassing, give me a break) so I wonder why they didn’t give Samuel one.

    • #8
    • July 6, 2017 at 5:48 pm
    • Like2 likes
  9. Profile photo of Steve C. Member

    Jon Gabriel, Ed.:Acting as his own counsel, Girod refused to submit to the federal yoke. “I am not a creation of state/government, as such I am not within its jurisdiction,” he wrote. “The proceedings of the ‘United States District Court’ cannot be applied within the jurisdiction of the ‘State of Kentucky.’”

    When the judge asked him to make a statement, Girod said, “I do not waive my immunity to this court. I do not consent.”

    As sympathetic as I am, this kind of argument has been tried for years, mostly by people who claim they don’t have to pay income tax. Typically the arguments made by the Amish are more along the render to God and Caesar kind. This guy sounds like he’s being advised by Dale Gribbel or reading from a Ron Paul newsletter.

    • #9
    • July 6, 2017 at 5:49 pm
    • Like9 likes
  10. Profile photo of Jon Gabriel, Ed. Chief
    Jon Gabriel, Ed. Post author

    Judge Mental (View Comment):

    EJHill (View Comment):
    The problem with those old Amish recipes is that they tend to be a bit buggy.

    You’re lucky the Amish don’t use the Internet, because they would never put up with that joke.

    “Clip clop clip clop clip clop BANG clip clop clip clop”

    — An Amish drive-by

    • #10
    • July 6, 2017 at 6:31 pm
    • Like13 likes
  11. Profile photo of big spaniel Member

    Obama was all about not enforcing the law for favored groups and giving them a pass. Trump might want to think about smiling upon the Amish.

    • #11
    • July 6, 2017 at 6:34 pm
    • Like3 likes
  12. Profile photo of Western Chauvinist Member

    …because everyone knows when you want cutting edge pharmaceuticals you buy Amish!

    Regulators think they’re gods and we’re mere children incapable of deciding anything for ourselves. Nuts.

    • #12
    • July 6, 2017 at 6:35 pm
    • Like21 likes
  13. Profile photo of Jimmy Carter Member

    Jon Gabriel, Ed. (View Comment):

    Judge Mental (View Comment):

    EJHill (View Comment):
    The problem with those old Amish recipes is that they tend to be a bit buggy.

    You’re lucky the Amish don’t use the Internet, because they would never put up with that joke.

    “Clip clop clip clop clip clop BANG clip clop clip clop”

    — An Amish drive-by

    • #13
    • July 6, 2017 at 6:40 pm
    • Like3 likes
  14. Profile photo of RushBabe49 Thatcher

    Calling Dr. Scott Gottlieb! This is his territory. Trump should pardon him right now.

    • #14
    • July 6, 2017 at 7:08 pm
    • Like3 likes
  15. Profile photo of Skyler Member

    Being Amish is no excuse for not following the law. I don’t see this as over reach.

    The law may or may not be foolish, but it is the law. Just because he believes in being backwards and magical beings doesn’t grant him license to break the law. Period. If he doesn’t like the law, he should work to change it. I’ll be happy to pitch in with him. But until the law is changed, and as long as the law isn’t completely immoral, then a civil society needs to observe the laws. We’re not all democrats in this country . . .

    • #15
    • July 6, 2017 at 7:09 pm
    • Like3 likes
  16. Profile photo of Sabrdance Member

    Skyler (View Comment):
    Being Amish is no excuse for not following the law. I don’t see this as over reach.

    The law may or may not be foolish, but it is the law. Just because he believes in being backwards and magical beings doesn’t grant him license to break the law. Period. If he doesn’t like the law, he should work to change it. I’ll be happy to pitch in with him. But until the law is changed, and as long as the law isn’t completely immoral, then a civil society needs to observe the laws. We’re not all democrats in this country . . .

    This is, in fact, the question at order. The FDA doesn’t have jurisdiction over herbal remedies (that’s the FTC). Other crankiness about submitting to judicial processes aside, he is correct about this part, and the FDA claiming that his products are drugs does not make them so.

    • #16
    • July 6, 2017 at 7:22 pm
    • Like24 likes
  17. Profile photo of Eustace C. Scrubb Member

    Hmmm… If he claimed it cured AIDS, would life be harder or easier for him?

    • #17
    • July 6, 2017 at 7:46 pm
    • Like1 like
  18. Profile photo of Hypatia Member

    The problem is over-regulation by legislation and administrative action. I just recently encountered a situation involving selling fruits and vegetables as “organic”. (Don’t, before you consult an attorney).

    The gent should have sold the stuff as a cosmetic! There is apparently no restriction on the claims that can be made for such products: reduces wrinkles! Tightens skin! Really? (No).

    • #18
    • July 6, 2017 at 7:59 pm
    • Like7 likes
  19. Profile photo of genferei Member

    From my youth (long distant) I remember a case about a housewife (that’s how old I am) who decided to sell the excess jam she made from the trees in her garden. She went to a market and sold her homemade plum jam. The health authorities came after her, insisting that if she wanted to sell food she needed to comply with first this regulation, then that one, then… Being a law-abiding person, she complied. In the end, she had had to create an industrial kitchen in her back yard.

    Then they told her it was misleading and deceptive to describe her jam as “homemade”.

    • #19
    • July 6, 2017 at 8:12 pm
    • Like20 likes
  20. Profile photo of genferei Member

    Skyler (View Comment): Being Amish is no excuse for not following the law.

    But the title is “Federal Overreach”. Why is this a Federal crime? What possible legitimate interest does the Federal government have in this activity?

    • #20
    • July 6, 2017 at 8:15 pm
    • Like15 likes
  21. Profile photo of Titus Techera Contributor

    Judge Mental (View Comment):
    Trump should pardon him. Aside from being a just result, it would be great PR.

    Mr. Trump should have an office of Making America Great Again which would bring him all the cases he should pardon & all the crazy overreaches should stop…

    • #21
    • July 6, 2017 at 8:35 pm
    • Like18 likes
  22. Profile photo of Skyler Member

    genferei (View Comment):

    Skyler (View Comment): Being Amish is no excuse for not following the law.

    But the title is “Federal Overreach”. Why is this a Federal crime? What possible legitimate interest does the Federal government have in this activity?

    There is no legitimate federal power to have an FDA. An FDA exists nonetheless. I would do away with the FDA, but until it is gone, they are the law.

    Sabrdance (View Comment):
    This is, in fact, the question at order. The FDA doesn’t have jurisdiction over herbal remedies (that’s the FTC). Other crankiness about submitting to judicial processes aside, he is correct about this part, and the FDA claiming that his products are drugs does not make them so.

    Yes, but he isn’t just offering salves, he is proclaiming to be able to treat diseases. If he simply said it softened and soothed the skin, that’s one thing. But to claim that his quackery removes tumors is beyond the pale. Of course, the story leads with the herbal ointment, not the tumor claims.

    • #22
    • July 6, 2017 at 9:03 pm
    • Like3 likes
  23. Profile photo of OmegaPaladin Coolidge

    Have you ever looked at an herbal supplement before? There is a very important disclaimer:

    “This product is not intended to treat, cure or prevent any condition or disease.”

    Because he claimed that the herbal remedy cured diseases, he was required to follow the manufacturing rules. Even major academic institutions have a hard time with FDA GMP standards. He also had to prove the medication was effective with trials. Basically, it is prohibitively expensive to market a curative agent.

    Now, herbal supplements have basically no testing except for safety. There is no guarantee you get what is on the label – testing has shown that some supplements completely lack their supposed active ingredient.

    All that said, imprisoning him was the action of a stupid thug.

    • #23
    • July 6, 2017 at 10:10 pm
    • Like10 likes
  24. Profile photo of James Of England Moderator

    genferei (View Comment):

    Skyler (View Comment): Being Amish is no excuse for not following the law.

    But the title is “Federal Overreach”. Why is this a Federal crime? What possible legitimate interest does the Federal government have in this activity?

    He sold the fraudulent products produced in Kentucky in Missouri, Indiana, Wisconsin, and Illinois, the latter three after losing a court case in Missouri. If the interstate commerce clause does not apply to that, what do you believe it should apply to?

    Six years seems surprisingly long, but the prohibition of the multistate sale of fraudulent goods seems like precisely the sort of thing best managed by the Federal government.

    • #24
    • July 6, 2017 at 10:33 pm
    • Like5 likes
  25. Profile photo of The Reticulator Member

    Randal H (View Comment):
    This is government regulatory insanity in a nutshell. On the one hand, left-leaning-government-regulation-friendly leftists push “small and local” and on the other they push the very regulatory overreach that makes such things impossible.

    This same thing is happening in Europe, where EU bureaucrats have driven many small purveyors of locally produced traditionally cured meats, cheeses, etc. out of business.

    Meanwhile, another guy pushes a quack cure by putting the label on it, “If you like your plan, you can keep your plan.” And the FDA has done nothing about it.

    • #25
    • July 6, 2017 at 10:45 pm
    • Like17 likes
  26. Profile photo of I Walton Member

    After pardoning him, the President should fire everyone involved in the harassment and close that piece of the FDA. I don’t suppose we’ll ever close the FDA.

    • #26
    • July 7, 2017 at 2:57 am
    • Like1 like
  27. Profile photo of Instugator Thatcher

    James Of England (View Comment):
    He sold the fraudulent products produced in Kentucky in Missouri, Indiana, Wisconsin, and Illinois, the latter three after losing a court case in Missouri.

    Objection: facts not in evidence. There has been no finding of fraud. Just failure to comply with onerous federal regulations. Oh and he talked to somebody too.

    FDA was not intended to address efficacy of pharmaceuticals, just safety. The efficacy mandate was added later initially through a misinterpretation of the safety mandate, followed by legislative action.

    I applaud his civil disobedience.

    • #27
    • July 7, 2017 at 4:16 am
    • Like10 likes
  28. Profile photo of Western Chauvinist Member

    James Of England (View Comment):

    genferei (View Comment):

    Skyler (View Comment): Being Amish is no excuse for not following the law.

    But the title is “Federal Overreach”. Why is this a Federal crime? What possible legitimate interest does the Federal government have in this activity?

    He sold the fraudulent products produced in Kentucky in Missouri, Indiana, Wisconsin, and Illinois, the latter three after losing a court case in Missouri. If the interstate commerce clause does not apply to that, what do you believe it should apply to?

    Six years seems surprisingly long, but the prohibition of the multistate sale of fraudulent goods seems like precisely the sort of thing best managed by the Federal government.

    What did the complainant in Missouri get out of this? Should have been a jail sentence for stupid. We can’t have people like that out on the streets! A danger to himself and others!

    • #28
    • July 7, 2017 at 5:02 am
    • Like1 like
  29. Profile photo of James Of England Moderator

    Instugator (View Comment):

    James Of England (View Comment):
    He sold the fraudulent products produced in Kentucky in Missouri, Indiana, Wisconsin, and Illinois, the latter three after losing a court case in Missouri.

    Objection: facts not in evidence. There has been no finding of fraud. Just failure to comply with onerous federal regulations. Oh and he talked to somebody too.

    Is it your position that To-mor-gone actually removes tumors? The Federal regulations aren’t that onerous for herbal products; for most of the products he just had to stop making claims about what his products achieve that were unsupportable. For To-mor-gone, he also had to stop giving instructions for use that were likely to result in scarring. He had to allow the FDA to inspect his plant. And he had to engage in a temporary halt to production.

    FDA was not intended to address efficacy of pharmaceuticals, just safety. The efficacy mandate was added later initially through a misinterpretation of the safety mandate, followed by legislative action.

    Well, fine, but even that covers this.

    I applaud his civil disobedience.

    I’d love to see the FDA rendered dramatically more friendly toward manufacturers (I don’t think it would be helpful to abolish it; a single regulatory regime dominating seems like a far better idea than 50 states and innumerable municipalities, and likely less open to corruption). I don’t get how the “Kentucky is not part of the USA” craziness is helpful to anyone. Other than draining our coffers by filling our jails and filling the coffers of the shysters who peddle the literature, who benefits?

    • #29
    • July 7, 2017 at 5:15 am
    • Like7 likes
  30. Profile photo of genferei Member

    James Of England (View Comment):
    He sold the fraudulent products produced in Kentucky in Missouri, Indiana, Wisconsin, and Illinois, the latter three after losing a court case in Missouri. If the interstate commerce clause does not apply to that, what do you believe it should apply to?

    State limitations on Commerce among the several States.

    • #30
    • July 7, 2017 at 6:06 am
    • Like1 like
  1. 1
  2. 2
  3. 3
  4. 4