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Colleagues upset by Anderson sentence

Judge's decision to send gene therapy pioneer French Anderson to prison for 14 years is a "great loss for science"

By | February 5, 2007

A California judge ignored pleas for leniency from scientists and supporters of W. French Anderson, the gene therapy pioneer convicted of molesting the teenage daughter of a research colleague at the University of Southern California, and sentenced Anderson Friday (February 2) to 14 years in prison. "This is a great loss for science. It's a very sad day for science," Mary Ann Liebert, publisher of Human Gene Therapy, a journal founded by Anderson, told The Scientist. Lawrence Kedes, director of the USC Institute for Genetic Medicine, was among Anderson's supporters at the sentencing. Kedes, too, said Anderson's sentencing is a loss for science. "It really is a multiple tragedy for all the parties concerned." Anderson's wife Kathryn, in an interview with The Scientist, insisted her husband is innocent. She said Anderson has received what will amount to a death sentence when other inmates learn the nature of his conviction. "This is the destruction of a genius, a very naive person," said Kathryn Anderson, who is the retired chief of surgery at Childrens Hospital Los Angeles. Anderson, part of the team that conducted the nation's first gene therapy protocol in 1990, was convicted in July of repeatedly abusing the daughter of a colleague at USC's Keck School of Medicine. Following his conviction, Anderson resigned from USC, which had barred him from campus. Kedes told The Scientist Anderson's 2004 arrest and conviction had been a "mild distraction" at the medical school. Most of the several dozen scientists and students working directly with Anderson have now moved on to other positions. Kedes said gene therapy research at the medical school had already quieted before Anderson's arrest, although work is underway at the affiliated Childrens Hospital Los Angeles. The victim, now a 19-year-old college student, testified during the sentencing Friday that Anderson molested her for five years beginning when she was 9 or 10. The abuse occurred at Anderson's home where he was instructing the girl in Tae Kwon Do. The young woman said she was so distraught, she began to cut herself and contemplated suicide while she was in high school. "I am going to have to live with this -- what he did to me -- every day for the rest of my life," she told the court. Anderson collected letters from dozens of supportive scientific colleagues, but Superior Court Judge Michael Pastor dismissed requests that Anderson be sentenced to probation while his conviction is under appeal. Kathryn Anderson said researchers offered to take Anderson on in projects to find treatments for multiple sclerosis and diabetes as a condition of probation. She declined to provide the names of scientists who had written on his behalf. "I wish they had seen the evidence," the judge said of Anderson's backers. During the trial, prosecutors introduced a tape secretly recorded by the victim when she was 17. On the tape Anderson does not specifically acknowledge molesting the girl, but said, "Something inside me was evil." Pastor said Anderson used his intellectual power to coerce the girl into sexual activity. "It was aggravated, despicable misconduct as far as I'm concerned." The judge also ordered Anderson to pay more than $52,000 to the victim and her family to cover costs of therapy and an additional $16,000 in state restitution. Deputy District Attorney Cathryn Brougham told The Scientist the young woman is satisfied with the sentence. Anderson faced a maximum sentence of 18 years. Before joining the University of Southern California in 1992, Anderson spent 27 years as a researcher at the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute at the National Institutes of Health. While there he inserted the adenosine deaminase gene via retrovirus into the T lymphocytes of a 4-year-old girl with severe combined immunodeficiency, or SCID. More recently, Anderson has focused on gene therapy delivery systems, including virus-based vectors to transfer genes and better vectors to insert genes into hematopoietic stem cells. To date, Anderson has published almost 400 articles and been profiled by a number of publications, including the New York Times and Scientific American. Susan Warner mail@the-scientist.com Links within this article W. French Anderson http://www.usc.edu/programs/pibbs/site/faculty/anderson_f.htm Human Gene Therapy http://www.liebertpub.com/publication.aspx?pub_id=19 I Ganguli, "W French Anderson convicted," The Scientist, July 20 2006. http://www.the-scientist.com/news/display/23996/ A McCook, "W. French Anderson arrested," The Scientist, August 5, 2004. http://www.the-scientist.com/article/display/22328 MK Brenner, et al. "Gene marking to determine whether autologous marrow infusion restores long-term haemopoiesis in cancer patients," The Lancet, November 6 1993. http://www.the-scientist.com/pubmed/790474
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Comments

Avatar of: LC

LC

Posts: 1

February 5, 2007

This man was convicted of a horrible crime and being a prominent member of the scientific community does not excuse his behavior. He has ruined a life and now he must accept his punishment. Prominence in any field does not give someone a "free pass" to commit crimes. I'm glad he is off the streets and if he is in fear while he is in prison then I guess he'll know how his victim felt during the times he abused her. His wife needs to take off her blinders and see that her husband, while being a gifted scientist, is also a pedophile.
Avatar of: Xin-Hua Feng

Xin-Hua Feng

Posts: 3

February 5, 2007

It might be a loss for science. But it is definitely a great gain for our society. Scientists as members of this society should be role models for youngsters in having integrity, conforming to moral conducts and obey laws.
Avatar of: V. Dress

V. Dress

Posts: 1

February 5, 2007

\nI think it is reprehensible for the scientific community to "mourn" the loss of a child molestor - no matter how great a genius and/or scientist they may be. Perhaps they mourn - perhaps this report has overstated or twisted the sentiments.\nYes - it is agreed it is a tragedy for everyone involved - but it must also be recognized that the tragedy emanates from the person that committed the crime - not from the legal system that sought to protect the victim, or from the spouse/family/friends that can't believe it is true.\nThe court has made its decision and sufficient evidence was found to convict him. I have not followed the trial. Obviously - he still has options to appeal the conviction. The victim's options to deal with this are much more limited.

February 5, 2007

I am greatly disturbed but not surprised that Dr. Anderson has received support from his colleagues even though he has committed a heinous crime against a child. Throughout human history, many intelligent men---including Plato---have argued that sex between an adult and a child (a man and a boy in Plato's day) is vital to the child's development. That argument persists to this day, even in the fringes of the psychsocial literature. Given that fact, any supporter of Dr. Anderson may want to reconsider what he or she may unwittingly be defending.
Avatar of: John Alsobrook

John Alsobrook

Posts: 2

February 5, 2007

What makes it a sad day for science is that the general public will now view scientists in the same category as every other self-serving self-protecting above-the-law professional guild. How many of Anderson's supporters would feel as generous to give a convicted child molester living in their neighborhood the opportunity to rehabilitate and work in their lab? Anderson deserves no special consideration or treatment, the court determined that he methodically destroyed this young woman. It would have been a good day for science if Anderson's colleagues had had the courage to stand up and be counted on the side of protecting the innocent.
Avatar of: David E. Harrison

David E. Harrison

Posts: 28

February 5, 2007

I am a colleague and collaborator with Dr French Anderson, and if he really did what he is accused of, I do not think the sentence is too much. He can work from jail, and no children will be in danger. \nYour article implies that all scientists are defending him. This is an outrageous lie. The vast majority of scientists, like any other citizens, are shocked and dismayed by child abuse, and want it severely punished.
Avatar of: Denis Colomb

Denis Colomb

Posts: 1

February 5, 2007

While he is obviously an important researcher, his crime is without appeal. It is really sad that any scientist would argue for a reduced sentance. As has been told to me over and over in life, you make your choices so be willing to pay for them; he stole something that can never be replaced and that is the real shame.
Avatar of: Ping Yao

Ping Yao

Posts: 1

February 5, 2007

The scientists who are still supporting him should do some serious soul searching. What is the moral duty of a scientist? What is the purpose of science? As a family friend of the victim, I witnessed in person how much the young girl and her family suffered. They will live with the pain the rest of their lives. To indicate that cool researches are worthier than the lives of the victims and that science should be placed above justice is just not right.
Avatar of: Robert S Knapp

Robert S Knapp

Posts: 1

February 6, 2007

I suggest that an organization with the above name be created to oppose the appallingly bad publicity created by those misguided persons who defend child molesters. \n
Avatar of: Tony Tang

Tony Tang

Posts: 2

February 6, 2007

I am a former USC Ph.D student. I am disappointed at all thoses people backing Anderson. It might be a loss for science, but it definitely is justice for Anderson. He enjoyed all the glory for the contribution to the science, it is only nature that he face the consequence of his evil acts.
Avatar of: Anupama, India.

Anupama, India.

Posts: 1

February 6, 2007

If Anderson did what he is convicted of then he deserves to be locked up safely. But if he is willing to put his scientific skills to the use of society as a retribution, then facilities for him conduct research on conditions such as MS and Diabetes must be provided to him, all the while keeping him in safe custody. Maybe the present system does not have any provisions to let this happen - if so the system must be changed

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