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Criminal Charges Dropped Against Chronic Fatigue Syndrome Researcher Judy Mikovits

13 June 2012 5:12 pm
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Judy Mikovits, who faced a series of professional and legal woes after publishing a study in Science more than 2 years ago that linked chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) to a mouse retrovirus, has had a pending criminal case against her dropped.

Last November, the district attorney in Washoe County, Nevada, filed a criminal complaint against Mikovits that charged the virologist with illegally taking computer data and related property from her former employer, the Whittemore Peterson Institute for Neuro-Immune Disease (WPI) in Reno, Nevada. In a separate civil court that month, WPI filed suit against Mikovits over her alleged possession of similar material, which included the laboratory notebooks she compiled while doing the CFS research.

On 11 June, the district attorney's office for Washoe County filed a petition to dismiss the criminal charges against Mikovits without prejudice (which means they can file a related complaint in the future), a clerk to the Justice Court of Reno told ScienceInsider.

Mikovits, who was briefly jailed on the charges, is still defending herself in the civil case, which has taken several bizarre twists, including a judge who had ruled against Mikovits recusing himself. The judge removed himself from the case because he received campaign donations from WPI co-founder Harvey Whittemore, who himself has been criminally charged with making illegal campaign contributions to a federal official. (He pled not guilty on 7 June).

Assistant District Attorney John Helzer, who filed the dismissal, says Whittemore's legal troubles factored into his decision. "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," says Helzer. "And we have witness issues that have arisen."

Science last December retracted the 8 October 2009 CFS paper by Mikovits and co-authors, an action she opposed.

Mikovits told ScienceInsider that the only work she has been able to find has been collaborating on a large study funded by the National Institutes of Health that should be the final word on the otherwise dismissed theory that CFS is linked to a mouse retrovirus, XMRV, or its relatives. "Everyone who wanted to work with me

was deterred by the threat of litigation," Mikovits wrote in an e-mail.

The results of the large study, led by Ian Lipkin of Columbia University, are expected to be revealed in the next few weeks.

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