Citizens United, a conservative advocacy group, is seeking federal records on why the Department of Justice (DOJ) ignored a federal grand jury indictment of a major Democratic Party donor who ordered illegal medical procedures that killed five elderly patients, The Daily Caller News Foundation has learned.
A federal grand jury named Hansjorg Wyss, former CEO of Synthes, Inc., as “Person No. 7” in a 2009 indictment that stated he directed subordinates in executive management meetings to conduct illegal human drug trials using an untested but potentially lucrative medical compound for spines.
Synthes and its subsidiary, Norian Corporation, inserted a new compound into unsuspecting patients even though the drug was not approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). At the time of the indictment, FDA identified three patients who had died — two more died in the years thereafter.
Rather than go to trial, DOJ attorneys arranged a settlement in which four top Synthes executives went to prison for terms of varying lengths, while the company agreed to pay a $22 million fine. Wyss walked away free.
Wyss, whose net worth has been estimated at $6.1 billion, was a major donor to the Democratic Party at the time of the settlement. He contributed hundreds of millions of dollars to liberal activist groups, including $5 million to the liberal Center for American Progress (CAP).
The CAP think tank is one of the most aggressively liberal non-profits in Washington, D.C. and was founded by John Podesta who now serves as Hillary Clinton’s national campaign director. Wyss has served on CAP’s board for years.
The former Synthes CEO also committed $5 million in 2013 to the Clinton Foundation’s “No Ceilings” project, which is closely linked to former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and seeks to advance the fortunes of women and girls.
Wyss’s private foundation, called the Wyss Foundation, reported $2.1 billion in assets in its 2013 tax filing with the Internal Revenue Service.
Citizens United, the organization widely known for winning a landmark Supreme Court decision on campaign finance, filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request Tuesday with two divisions of the DOJ.
David Bossie, the group’s president, said the FOIA requests were filed to determine if politics played a role in the settlement.
“For years, we’ve seen partisan politics infiltrate the Obama Department of Justice,” Bossie told TheDCNF. “Hansjorg Wyss is a major supporter of liberal causes, including a $5 million contributor to the Clinton Foundation.”
“With these FOIA requests, Citizens United is seeking to determine if politics played any role in the Department of Justice’s decision not to seek charges against Mr. Wyss in their case involving a Wyss-led company that illegally experimented on patients who died.”
Citizens United filed FOIA requests with both the DOJ’s criminal division and the office that oversees all U.S. Attorneys.
In the filing before the criminal division, Citizens United stated, “the government did not prosecute chief executive officer Hansjörg Wyss, who was identified in the indictment as having made the decision to bypass the government’s clinical trial approval process.”
“Given Mr. Wyss’s role,” the advocacy group stated, “Citizens United seeks any and all Criminal Division records that would shed light on the government’s decision not to prosecute Mr. Wyss.”
The FOIA request seeks records generated by attorneys who were in the criminal division between 2009 and 2011, the period when the agency was handling the Wyss case.
Citizen United identified records produced by Assistant Attorney General Lanny Breuer, Chief of the Fraud Section Steven Tyrrell, Fraud Section Principal Deputy Chief for Litigation Paul Pelletier and Fraud Section Deputy Chief Steve Linick.
A separate FOIA request was filed with the Executive Office for U.S. Attorneys, which centrally processes all DOJ records related to the work of U.S. attorneys.
Citizens United identified six prosecuting attorneys who served during the period the Wyss case was being handled, including Assistant U.S. Attorney Mary Crawley, who publicly led the Wyss prosecution, and was attached to the U.S. Attorneys Office for Eastern Pennsylvania.
At the time of the settlement, Crawley told the Federal Judge Legrome Davis that Synthes “used these people, these elderly patients, as guinea pigs and ignored time-honored principles of informed consent.”
Crawley called it “human experimentation,” noting, “they all have undermined the fundamental procedural protections that separate a civilized society from an uncivilized society when it comes to human experimentation.”
A Washington state judge recently permitted a separate civil lawsuit to go forward against Wyss under the state’s racketeering laws.
The state court agreed that Wyss could face charges that he had operated a “criminal profiteering enterprise” through the illegal use of a drug that resulted in the death of Reba Golden — a 67-year-old woman who died on the Synthes operating table.
The substance was so lethal, the medical compound killed pigs in animal experiments conducted by Dr. Jens Chapman, a top-level Synthes consultant who received millions of dollars in an endowment from Wyss. Chapman was the spinal surgeon who operated on Goldman and is a defendant in the civil suit.
Daniel Hannula, an attorney who represents Goldman’s surviving daughter, told TheDCNF that Wyss “entered into a criminal enterprise to perform illegal and experimental surgeries on patients.”
Wyss also settled for $1.5 million in a legal case where Jackie Long, a former Wyss foundation employee, claimed the billionaire sexually assaulted her. Long was also particularly upset that in 2013 Wyss committed the $5 million to the Clinton Foundation’s “No Ceiling”s program.
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