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Criminal case against chronic fatigue syndrome researcher dropped

Judy Mikovits is free. Criminal charges against the embattled scientist for stealing lab notebooks, computers and other material from her previous employer were dropped on 12 June by Richard Gammick, the district attorney of Washoe county, Nevada. The news was first reported yesterday by ProHealth.

Mikovits still faces a civil suit filed by the Whittemore Peterson Institute for Neuro-immune Disease (WPI) in Reno, Nevada. A Washoe county judge, Brent Adams, ruled against Mikovits in that case on 19 December (see ‘Institute claims victory in civil suit against Judy Mikovits‘), but Adams recused himself when it emerged that he had accepted campaign contributions from Harvey Whittemore, husband of the WPI’s president, Annette Whittemore. Meanwhile, Harvey Whittemore faces federal charges of making illegal campaign contributions. He has plead not guilty.

The scientist’s legal troubles began after she was fired from the WPI for reportedly refusing to share cell lines with a former colleague. According to court documents, Mikovits directed a former graduate student to remove lab notebooks from her office. Mikovits was jailed briefly in southern California and later charged with possessing stolen materials  (see ‘Embattled scientist in theft probe‘).

Mikovits, whom Nature profiled in ‘Fighting for a Cause‘, and her team linked a mysterious retrovirus called XMRV to chronic fatigue syndrome. The result turned out to be an artefact of contamination, and the paper has since been retracted (see ‘XMRV paper withdrawn‘). A multi-centre study funded by the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases examining the association between XMRV and chronic fatigue is expected to be published soon.

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