- Associated Press - Monday, May 7, 2012

SAN DIEGO (AP) — A 92-year-old woman who sold $40 suicide kits was sentenced Monday for failing to file federal tax returns.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Bernard Skomal ordered Sharlotte Hydorn to serve five years of supervised probation and pay a fine of $1,000. She could have faced a year in prison.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Peter J. Mazza told the court that the case initially was investigated because authorities saw a risk to the public because Hydorn wasn’t verifying who her customers were.

There’s no federal law against selling the kits.

Hydorn said after sentencing that all she wanted to do was allow people to die at home, surrounded by family and friends.

Both the prosecution and defense agreed she should be spared prison and sentenced to the probation, but prosecutors had recommend that Hydorn be ordered to pay more than $25,000 in restitution to the IRS, a charge that the defense asked she also be spared.

The retired schoolteacher earlier told authorities she knew the helium kits were intended to be used to commit suicide but she said she thought they would be used by the terminally ill.

She pleaded guilty to the tax charge, but under an agreement with prosecutors she will not be in charged in state court with involvement in six suicides.

The Spokane, Wash, native began assisting physicians with patient suicides after her husband, Rex, died of colon cancer, said Charles Goldberg, her attorney. Her husband was in “agonizing pain” and did not want to die “filled with tubes in a hospital.”

Hydorn felt she could design a helium hood that would be more comfortable for patients than the ones she saw doctors using. She received “thousands” of orders for her hoods and began charging for her time and materials.

Agents who raided her home in suburban San Diego last year found checks that were not cashed and thousands of dollars in cash from buyers, her attorney has said.

“To Ms. Hydorn, her involvement in the suicide kits was an act of compassion and not based on greed,” Mr. Goldberg wrote.

Prosecutors said she took no steps to verify the physical condition, age, identity or mental state of her customers and therefore had no idea whether her kits were being bought by people suffering from depression or by minors acting without the consent of an adult. Court documents say she sold more than 1,300 kits to people across the United States and abroad. Most of them contacted her by mail or phone.

Hydorn’s kits included tubing, material for the hood and a user diagram. A needed helium source was not included.

Investigators determined that the kits had been sold to at least 50 people in San Diego County since 2007 and that four of those people last year used the kits to commit suicide. None was terminally ill, according to investigators.

Hydorn pleaded guilty to the tax charge dating back to 2007 and acknowledged she made more than $150,000 in income from various sources during that period, including from the sale of helium kits.

After her home was raided last year, Hydorn told the Associated Press that she wasn’t responsible for who uses the kit and only was trying to help people in pain. She said she had been in business for three years and sold up to 60 kits a month.

Hydorn said she sold the kits under the name “GLADD Group.” She previously admitted in court that she had made $66,717 in 2010 and paid no taxes on it.

Before her sentencing she was allowed to remain free on $10,000 bond on the condition she not assist any suicides.

Copyright © 2018 The Washington Times, LLC.

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