Acclaimed Geneticist Sentenced For Molesting Colleague's Daughter

Sunday, February 4th 2007, 4:33 pm
By: News On 6

LOS ANGELES (AP) _ A world-renowned geneticist and Oklahoma native was sentenced Friday to 14 years in prison for molesting an employee's daughter who took martial arts classes at his home.

Many people, including a Nobel Prize winner, wrote letters in support of William French Anderson, Time magazine's runner-up for Man of the Year in 1995. But Judge Michael E. Pastor said he caused ``incalculable'' emotional damage to a victim he described as an insecure and trusting immigrant.

``Because of intellectual arrogance, he persisted and he got away with as much as he could,'' the judge said.

Anderson, 70, was convicted in July child molestation. He could have gotten 18 years behind bars.

Anderson, born in Tulsa, Okla., has been called the ``father of gene therapy'' for his work on a promising but controversial experimental medical treatment that involves injecting healthy genes into sick patients.

He claimed to be the first person to successfully treat a patient with the therapy in 1990, though the claim has been disputed. Anderson was inducted into the Oklahoma Hall of Fame in 1998.

Prosecutors said Anderson molested the girl from 1997 to 2001, starting when she was 10.

Anderson watched intently as his victim, now 19, read a statement before he was sentenced.

``Roughly three years ago, I wanted to kill myself,'' she said. ``I couldn't live with all the pain. ... He maliciously destroyed my world to fulfill his own sick pleasures.''

The judge also ordered Anderson to pay her family about $52,000 in restitution for past therapy and cover the cost of any future treatment. He also imposed fines and fees of about $16,000.

Defense attorneys argued that Anderson was a friendly mentor to the girl and was being smeared by her mother, who wanted to assume Anderson's position as director of the Gene Therapies Laboratories at the University of Southern California's Keck School of Medicine.

In e-mails and a tape-recorded conversation played for jurors during the trial, the girl angrily confronted Anderson, who told the girl, ``I just did it, just something in me was just evil.''

In court, Anderson said he thought the confrontation was about the emotional abuse he had inflicted on her as he pressured her to do well in school.

``If you cause somebody to crash, flunk out, that's just evil,'' he said.

Anderson resigned from USC in September.