- The Washington Times - Sunday, February 25, 2007

Federal prosecutors in the District will not seek prison time for former FDA Commissioner Lester Crawford, but have asked a judge that he pay $50,000 in fines for failing to report his interest in various FDA-regulated companies.

Dr. Crawford had faced up to a year in prison on two misdemeanor charges of false reporting and conflict of interest.

Federal prosecutors said he and his wife continued to hold financial interest in food, beverage and medical companies regulated by the Food and Drug Administration after informing regulators he had sold off stocks. Dr. Crawford resigned in September 2005, about two months after being confirmed by the Senate.

Dr. Crawford’s sentencing, originally set for last month, was postponed until tomorrow after U.S. Magistrate Judge Deborah A. Robinson questioned whether he obstructed or impeded investigators. She questioned why prosecutors and Dr. Crawford’s attorney agreed to $50,000 in fines, when the sentencing guidelines call for $250 to $2,500.

In recent filings, prosecutors and a defense lawyer stated Dr. Crawford cooperated with the investigation. Both sides say Dr. Crawford should pay $50,000 in fines, though they disagree on whether he should be placed on supervised probation.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Howard R. Sklamberg stated in a memo to Judge Robinson that Dr. Crawford doesn’t deserve the benefit of unsupervised probation.

“Unsupervised probation requires the court to take the defendant at his word that he will comply with conditions of probation,” Mr. Sklamberg wrote. “One who has pleaded guilty to telling a series of lies does not deserve this benefit.”

Mr. Sklamberg also criticized Dr. Crawford’s role in an FDA task force on obesity at a time when he held stock in Sysco and Pepsi.

“It does not take a lawyer to determine that the country’s obesity czar should not own stock in corporations that produce fast food, junk food and soft drinks,” the prosecutor wrote.

Mr. Sklamberg called Dr. Crawford’s actions “knowing, arrogant and criminally indifferent,” but also said he was not motivated by a desire to harm the public or misuse his office for personal gain.

Defense attorney Barbara Van Gelder is calling for “a minimal period” of unsupervised probation, saying Dr. Crawford never intended to profit from his actions in the case.

“Dr. Crawford is now retired from government service, but the stigma of his conviction will follow him the rest of his life,” Miss Van Gelder wrote.

When an ethics official at the Department of Health and Human Services questioned Dr. Crawford, a veterinarian, about his stock in Sysco and Kimberly-Clark, he replied in a Dec. 28, 2004, e-mail: “Sysco and Kimberly-Clark have in fact been sold.”

Prosecutors said in charging documents: “In truth and in fact, as Crawford then knew, Crawford and/or his wife held shares in both Sysco and Kimberly-Clark throughout 2003 and 2004.”

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