Last time we looked in on Sam Girod was in July 2017, as he was being sentenced to six years in federal prison following conviction by a jury of violating drug labeling and other rules in connection with a commonly available skin salve.
It was in some bizarre way a good-news/bad-news situation. The good news was that he received a six-year sentence on counts that could have put him behind bars for 48 years…..at age 56. The bad news was that he was even convicted and that he was going to jail for crimes that had no known victims, for longer than many serious violent offenders. (There was also three years probation and a requirement that he repay his “victims” $14,000, even if no one knew who they were.)
Last week, it was nearly all good news for Girod, who spoke to me from his farmhouse in Owingsville, Kentucky. Yes, he was wearing a leg monitor and still technically a prisoner, possibly for as much as two more years. But he was home, “surrounded by family.”
For him, the Covid-19 pandemic has been a blessing, as it has been for hundreds of nonviolent offenders well into their sentences, who were released early to avoid getting sick. Not surprisingly, the pandemic has been used as an excuse to also release the politically well connected, like Trump’s ex-lawyer Michael Cohen and ex-campaign manager Paul Manafort.
Girod told me he was released to home confinement as an elderly offender (he’s now 60). He filed a request for compassionate release two months previously, which was denied, and which he now has on appeal. If that were granted, he’d be a completely free man. Sally O’Boyle, a food rights advocate, visited with Girod yesterday and reported on Facebook that he looked fit at 6’2” and hadn’t had to cut his hair or beard (he is Amish).
When I last wrote about Girod in that post about his sentencing in 2017, I took him to task for serving as his own lawyer, and in effect ensuring his conviction. He now agrees that going to trial without a lawyer was a mistake. “My mind was in huge turmoil,” he recalls of his trial in the spring of 2017. “I went against an attorney. I fought that. If I had it to do over, I probably would have hired a team of attorneys.”
Had he done that, there’s a good chance he would have been acquitted, and the FDA set back on its heels for going after an Amish farmer not doing anything more wrong than dozens of other salve makers selling their wares on Amazon and other places on the Internet.
Will he go back into that business again? He’s not committing, which isn’t surprising given his recent personal history. There are a lot of family financial issues to straighten away now that he’s home. In the meantime, he’s just enjoying getting reacquainted with his farm and family.