Amish Grandfather sold herbal health products. He’s going to prison for 6 years.

Amish Grandfather sold herbal health products. He’s going to prison for 6 years.

Samuel Girod, Amish farmer in Kentucky and herbal salve maker, father of twelve… is in jail. I was there for months without bail and has now been sentanced to prison for six year.  He has done absolutely nothing even remotely worthy of treatment of this magnitude. (Sam had made some healing claims on the labeling of his herbal salves and this all escalated from there.) When they came to arrest Sam, they corralled his wife and children into the yard to be guarded by an agent with a semi-automatic rifle. (According to a family friend that I spoke with, his children are still having nightmares.) They put Sam in hand cuffs, hauled him to prison, locked him up without bail and threw enough charges against him (28,000 pages of legal documents).

FDA didn’t like his labeling

When the FDA informed Sam that these healing claims made his salve a drug and he was in for big trouble, Sam dutifully and respectfully took the offensive word ‘Healing’ off his label, removed the reference to possibly healing of skin cancer and changed the name to ‘Chickweed Salve.’ When that still was not good enough, he renamed it again to ‘Original Chickweed.’

Chillingly Familiar Escalation of Force 

After the label changes, Sam says all was quiet until about three years ago. Then suddenly everything came roaring back. Apparently a local health official spotted Sam’s Chickweed salve in a small convenience store in Missouri. The local official informed a state health official who informed the FDA who swept in and seized the salve.

And the violation? Promotional brochures were found in the Missouri store with testimonials from Sam’s customers claiming to be healed from various skin ailments by the salve. (Have you seen testimonials on Amazon for products??)

Ah-ha! So, since Sam is still claiming ‘healing’ even though it is not on his label this time, the ‘healing’ claims are in the same store so that means if we stretch the interpretation just a little we could make a case that Sam is still selling drugs that we have not approved so he’s still an illegal drug dealer. Plus now we charge him with selling illegal drugs across state lines!

So the ‘illegal drug’ inspections began. To his credit Sam tried to be agreeable and peaceful even though he rightfully insisted that his salves have nothing to do with drugs. His protests fell on deaf ears. They are drugs because you claim they heal, cure or prevent disease.

FDA demands inspections without warrants

Sam reluctantly gave the FDA permission to inspect, hoping to pacify them. But he did ask one thing. Since their family is Amish and photography is offensive to their practice of faith he asked that the agents not take pictures. Sam says the FDA agreed that they would not take pictures during the inspection. But, when the agents arrived to do the inspection, they immediately pulled cameras and proceeded to shoot pictures completely breaking their word and completely ignoring and disrespecting Sam’s reasonable request to respect his faith.

Is anyone surprised that when the agents later came back unannounced to do another search of Sam’s facilities, that this time Sam refused them permission? He no longer trusted them. They had broken their word the previous time, plus they didn’t have a search warrant. The deputy sheriff, who had escorted the agents, told the FDA that this was totally within Sam’s rights. They legally needed a search warrant to inspect. Gesturing toward the street, the sheriff told the agents, “There’s the road.”

The agents left… but they didn’t give up. In fact it seems they may have been just a tad irritated that this little bit of a nobody Amish man called their bluff about something as small as keeping their word. He even made them retreat to get a warrant! And he’s an illegal drug dealing Amish man at that! No worries, Sam… we will be back with a warrant!

And they were. And the charges escalate with every turn. Sam, (probably naively) is representing himself in court and he has made a few blunders there. He’s Amish so he doesn’t have a telephone or computer so he’s rather hard to communicate with. Because of a miscommunication, he missed a court date a few months ago which has not endeared him to the already irritated prosecutors.

So now he’s charged with contempt of court. He’s charged with introducing illegal drugs into interstate commerce; charged with manufacturing drugs without a license; charged for misbranding drugs; charged with obstructing or threatening a witness in the federal grand jury indictment (which Sam has no idea what, how, when or who they are referring to with that charge)… He’s charged with conspiring with others to prevent, by force, intimidation, and threat FDA agents from discharging the duties of their offices… You get the picture.

If you have been paying attention over the last 25 years to the conduct of federal agents in conflictual situations, these charges and the extreme use of force and weight is chillingly familiar. Unless a miracle happens, the situation does not bode well for Sam or his family. As innocent, non-violent and as peaceful as they may be, one does not speak up to the federal government and win.

Where will it end? 


Sheriff Mack requests Pardon

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