A Los Angeles scientist, who has been hailed as "the father of the gene therapy", was sentenced Friday to 14 years in prison for molesting a girl to whom he taught karate at his home.
William French Anderson, former director of the Gene Therapy Laboratories at the University of Southern California (USC), was convicted last July of one count of continuous sexual abuse with a child under 14 and three counts of lewd and lascivious acts with a child.
The prominent geneticist was accused of sexually abusing the victim - now an adult who testified during the month long trial - over several years, beginning when she was about 9 or 10.
They met after the girl's family moved to Los Angeles from China and her mother began working for Anderson at his lab. Anderson resigned from USC in September.
Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Michael E. Pastor handed down the sentence, rejecting the 70-year-old researcher's arguments that his imprisonment would deprive humanity of the benefits of his medical efforts.
Several prominent scientists, including a Nobel Prize winner, wrote to support Anderson's argument, which failed to sway the judge.
Anderson's lawyer claimed the girl's mother was trying to extort Anderson by alleging he abused her when Anderson was guilty only of pressuring the child to do well in school.
Anderson had been a coach and mentor to the girl since she was 9, when her mother, Anderson's second-in-command at his USC laboratory, asked him to help the girl.
Before he was accused of molesting the girl in 2004, Anderson had been among the few scientists who achieve something close to public celebrity status for their scientific achievements.
He led an experimental implant of a harmless bacterial gene into a human in late 1980s, when journalists compared the achievement with jet airplanes breaking the sound barrier.
Anderson left the National Institutes of Health in 1992 for USC. He and his wife, an accomplished surgeon, said they chose not to have children to devote themselves to medicine.
After he was charged in Los Angeles, a Maryland man claimed that Anderson had molested him 20 years earlier. Anderson was charged then with abusing the boy, but Maryland prosecutors dropped the case.