Chronic Fatigue Case Dropped

The criminal charges that had been brought upon chronic fatigue syndrome researcher Judy Mikovits for stealing data from her former employer have been dropped.

Jun 15, 2012
Jef Akst

FLICKR, BRIAN TURNER

Since last November, chronic fatigue syndrome researcher Judy Mikovits, formerly employed by the Whittemore Peterson Institute for Neuro-Immune Disease (WPI) in Reno, Nevada, has been facing civil and criminal charges for allegedly taking lab notebooks and computer documents from her WPI office, after having been fired by the institute.

But earlier this week (June 11), the Washoe County district attorney's office filed to dismiss the criminal case, though it retains the right to file a related complaint in the future, according to ScienceInsider.

The civil matter, however, is still underway. The judge who initially ruled against Mikovits later recused himself because of campaign donations he had received from WPI co-founder Harvey Whittemore. Incidentally, Whittemore is also facing criminal charges regarding alleged illegal campaign contributions to a federal official, to which he pled not guilty earlier this month (June 7). According to Assistant District Attorney John Helzer, this pending case was part of the reason the office filed for a dismissal of Mikovits’s case.

“There's a lot going on with the federal government and different levels that wasn't occurring when we first became involved with prosecuting this case,” Helzer told ScienceInsider. “And we have witness-issues that have arisen.”

While Mikovits’s legal troubles have certainly made headlines in the past 7 months, she was first noted for her work linking the mouse retrovirus XMRV to chronic fatigue syndrome—work that was published in Science in 2009, but retracted last December. Mikovits told ScienceInsider she is now collaborating on a National Institutes of Health-funded study led by Ian Lipkin of Columbia University that should settle once and for all the XMRV-CFS debate, the results of which are expected within the next month.