United States District Court, E.D. Kentucky, Central Division, Lexington
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
C. Reeves United States District Judge.
Samuel Girod, a self-described Amish farmer, manufactured and
sold in interstate commerce products called Chickweed Healing
Salve, TO-MOR-GONE, and R.E.P. Following a three-day trial
beginning February 27, 201');">17, a jury convicted him of various
offenses, including failing to register with the Food and
Drug Administration, introducing misbranded drugs into
interstate commerce, witness tampering, and failing to
appear. He was sentenced to 72 months' imprisonment, to
be followed by three years of supervised release. [Record No.
1');">141');">1] The United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit
affirmed the conviction on appeal.
has now filed a motion to vacate, set aside, or correct his
sentence under 28 U.S.C. § 2555 and the Court has
performed a preliminary review of the motion in accordance
with Rule 4 of the Rules Governing 2255 Proceedings. Because
it plainly appears that Girod is not entitled to relief, this
collateral proceeding will be dismissed.
federal grand jury indicted Girod in October 201');">15, charging
him with eight counts of introducing misbranded products into
interstate commerce in violation of 21');">1 U.S.C. §§
331');">1(a) and 333(a)(2); one count of failing to register with
the Food and Drug Administration (“FDA”) in
violation of 21');">1 U.S.C. §§ 331');">1(p) and 333(a)(2); one
count of conspiring to prevent FDA officers from discharging
their duties in violation of 1');">18 U.S.C. § 372; and one
count of witness tampering in violation of 1');">18 U.S.C. §
1');">151');">12(b)(2)(A). Girod retained attorney Charles McFarland
prior to his initial appearance on November 2, 201');">15. However,
McFarland filed a motion to withdraw on April 9, 201');">16,
reporting that Girod had terminated the attorney-client
relationship. Girod advised McFarland that he would be
representing himself going forward and requested that
McFarland withdraw from the case as soon as possible. [Record
United States Magistrate Judge scheduled a hearing on
McFarland's motion to withdraw, and Attorney Michael Fox
appeared as court-appointed stand-by counsel. The Court
suggested that Girod take several days to consider
self-representation, and offered to conduct an additional
hearing at a later date, but Girod insisted on proceeding
with his decision that day. The Court then recessed for an
hour, during which time Girod met with attorney Fox regarding
his desire to proceed pro se.
reconvening, the magistrate judge conducted a
Faretta hearing, in which he
asked whether Defendant had legal training, whether he had
represented himself in a criminal proceeding before, whether
he understood the charges against him and the serious
penalties he faced if convicted, whether he understood that
the Court could not assist him at trial, and whether he
understood the various Federal Rules and that the Court would
be under no obligation to relax application of the Rules to a
pro se defendant, among many other questions. The
Court, referencing all phases of the case (discovery, trial,
sentencing, if applicable), also warned Defendant about the
disadvantages of representing himself.
[Record No. 46]. See Faretta v. California, 422 U.S.
magistrate judge determined that Girod “[knew] what he
was doing in choosing to proceed pro se and made his
decision with his ‘eyes wide open' to the
consequences and alternatives.” The Court, however,
strongly cautioned Girod that his decision to represent
himself was a “poor calculation.” Despite
Girod's objection to the appointment of stand-by counsel,
the Court appointed attorney Fox in that limited role.
[Record No. 46]
then proceeded with a series of frivolous filings, mostly
based on “sovereign citizen” arguments. These
filings included a motion to dismiss the indictment, which
the Court denied on June 24, 201');">16. [Record No. 70] Girod
promptly filed a notice of appeal from the non-appealable
order. And when Girod did not attend a status conference on
August 26, 201');">16, the Court issued a warrant for his arrest.
Girod remained a fugitive until he was eventually taken into
custody on January 1');">12, 201');">17. His bond was revoked and a jury
trial was scheduled for February 27, 201');">17.
federal grand jury returned a superseding indictment on
February 2, 201');">17, which charged Girod with failing to appear
at the status conference in violation of 1');">18 U.S.C. §
31');">146(a)(1');">1) in addition to all of the previous charges.
[Record No. 90] Girod was arraigned on the superseding
indictment on February 6, 201');">17. Despite the Court's
repeated admonishment about the perils of proceeding pro
se, Girod reaffirmed his desire to represent himself.
[Record No. 1');">107');">1');">107, p. 4] Noting that the case had changed
slightly due to the addition of the failure to appear charge,
the Court asked the defendant whether he needed additional
time to prepare for trial. Girod responded that he did not.
Id. at 1');">10');">p. 1');">10.
his earlier assertion to the contrary, Girod moved for a
continuance on February 1');">17, 201');">17, stating that he needed
additional time to “come up to speed as how to handle a
jury trial.” [Record No. 1');">102] The Court denied this
motion, noting that Girod's steadfast desire to represent
himself could not be used to disrupt or manipulate the trial
process. [Record No. 1');">103]
a pretrial conference on February 22, 201');">17, Girod requested a
continuance of 90 days in which to learn how to conduct a
jury trial. [Record No. 1');">106, p. 8, 1');">10] The government
objected to the request, noting that there had already been
numerous continuances and prejudice to the government would
be severe if the request were granted since it had already
made accommodations for several witnesses to travel from out
of state to attend the trial. After considering all of these
concerns and the straightforward nature of the new charge,
the Court denied Girod's oral motion for a continuance.
trial commenced on February 27, 201');">18. The government's
first witness was Nicholas Paulin, a consumer safety officer
with the FDA. [Record No. 1');">133');">1');">133, 1');">10');">p. 1');">109');">1');">10');">p. 1');">109] Upon conclusion of the