Woman (92) avoids jail for selling mail-order suicide kits
A 92-year-old Southern California woman who acknowledged selling kits intended to help people commit suicide has been sentenced to five years' supervised probation for failing to file federal tax returns.
US Magistrate Judge Bernard Skomal also ordered Sharlotte Hydorn to not participate in any way in assisting suicides, including in the manufacture of devices or as an adviser to others on the subject.
The conviction was part of a plea deal reached between federal prosecutors and Hydorn after investigators raided her home last year in El Cajon, east of San Diego.
She pleaded guilty to the tax charge, but under an agreement with prosecutors she will not be charged in state court with involvement in six suicides.
Assistant US Attorney Peter J Mazza said the government opted to prosecute the retired school teacher for tax evasion because they felt it was the best way to stop her.
There is no federal law regarding assisted suicides.
Prosecutors say she sold at least 1,300 kits across the United States and abroad. Most of them contacted her by mail or phone.
Mr Mazza said the federal government wanted to address the "public risk" of Hydorn's "indiscriminate and un-thoughtful sale of suicide kits." He said she had no idea whether her kits were being bought by people suffering from depression or by minors acting without the consent of an adult.
One of those who committed suicide with her kit was a 19-year-old boy, Mr Mazza said.
"I wanted people to be able to die at home," she said outside the courthouse.
She began making the kits after watching her husband, Rex, die of colon cancer in a hospital and hearing him say "home, home" for her to take him home to die, which she was unable to do.
Before yesterday's sentencing, Hydorn faced a year in prison but neither the prosecution nor judge said that would be a consideration because of her age.
After her home was raided last year, Hydorn said that she had been in business for three years and sold up to 60 kits a month.
In court, she admitted she made $66,717 (€51,000) in 2010 and paid no taxes on that.