'Miracle' providers claim constitutional protection
An Ashland couple accused of peddling over the Internet a diluted version of industrial bleach as an elixir for everything from earaches to cancer claims the federal government has no jurisdiction over their operation because it is a private health "association."
Federal prosecutors labeled their claim "misguided."
In federal court filings, defendants Louis Daniel Smith and Karis Delong claim they have constitutional protections to make and sell "Miracle Mineral Supplement" through their online company, Project GreenLife, because their products are offered only to members of a "First Amendment Private Health Care Association."
Smith, 42, and Delong, 38, claim the First and 14th Amendments protect these associations because they are private and not part of the public domain over which agencies such as the Food and Drug Administration have power, so federal health laws don't apply, according to court filings seeking to get their case dismissed.
Project GreenLife shipped Miracle Mineral Supplement and other products only to members of the association, a distinction that frees them from the scrutiny of the FDA, which is mandated to protect public health, Smith and Delong argue.
The indictment does not make any claims that Miracle Mineral Supplement sickened or harmed anyone — even members of the association — so any investigation of them is unwarranted, the argument claims.
Not only do the pair claim that the government has no authority to pursue them, they put federal officials "on notice" that they could be sued personally for allegedly violating their civil rights, court records show.
Prosecutors countered in court papers filed Friday, saying case law cited by Smith and Delong provide no legal shields for them to operate illegally just by declaring themselves "private" instead of "public," court filings state.
A federal grand jury's January indictment of the pair and two co-defendants stems from violations of federal laws, the government says, and is not based upon any belief systems they or their fellow members hold.
"The defendant's misguided views of the grand jury's jurisdiction are also without support in the law," federal prosecutor Christopher Parisi wrote in Friday's response.
The case is playing out in U.S. District Court in Spokane, Wash., where Project GreenLife operated. The defendants allegedly smuggled their product's active ingredient, sodium chlorite, from Canada. The company was shut down after a 2011 FDA raid in Spokane.
Smith, Delong and co-defendant Tammy Olson, 50, of Nine Mile Falls, Wash., were each charged with conspiracy, four counts of interstate sales of misbranded drugs and one count of smuggling stemming from an investigation by FDA special agents and U.S. Postal Service investigators.
Also charged was Olson's husband, 49-year-old Chris Olson, with one count of conspiracy, one count of the interstate sale of a misbranded drug and one count of smuggling.
The most serious charge is smuggling, which carries a sentence of up to 20 years in federal prison upon conviction.
According to federal prosecutors, Miracle Mineral Supplement was a mixture of water and sodium chlorite. Buyers were told to mix the solution with citric acid to form chlorine dioxide, which is an industrial chemical used to bleach textiles and disinfect wastewater, according to court records.
Labeling on the chemical states it should never be ingested because it can cause digestive tract burning, nausea, diarrhea and dehydration. If inhaled, it can cause respiratory distress, lung congestion and possibly death.
Smith and Delong were arrested Feb. 5 at their Ashland residence and lodged at the Jackson County Jail. They remained in custody there Tuesday awaiting transport to Spokane, where the case will be heard.
Reach reporter Mark Freeman at 541-776-4470 or firstname.lastname@example.org.