Grand Jury Indicts USC Gene Researcher in Molestation Case

Times Staff Writer

Indictments were unsealed Tuesday accusing William French Anderson, the father of gene therapy and founder of an internationally acclaimed research institute at USC, of six charges of child molestation involving the young daughter of a colleague.

Anderson, 68, pleaded not guilty in Los Angeles County Superior Court to charges that he sexually molested the girl, now 17, between 1997 and 2001, when she was between 10 and 14 years old.

Deputy Dist. Atty. Cathryn Brougham said the investigation is ongoing.


“We suspect he has other victims out there,” Brougham said Tuesday.

If convicted, Anderson could be sentenced to a maximum of 32 years in prison.

By indicting Anderson with a grand jury on one count of continuous sexual abuse of a child under 14 and five counts of a lewd act upon a child, prosecutors eliminated the need for a hearing in Pasadena Superior Court to determine whether there is enough evidence to require him to stand trial.

“It has been several months, and there still hadn’t been a preliminary hearing, and there wasn’t any indication the defense wanted a preliminary hearing anytime soon,” Brougham said. “Such delays don’t help the victim. This will also help protect the minor’s privacy.”

Barry Tarlow, Anderson’s attorney, did not return calls Tuesday. In an e-mail to colleagues last year, Anderson denied wrongdoing.

Anderson, a martial arts expert, taught karate to the girl in his San Marino home, prosecutors said. Last spring, the girl talked to a counselor.

The counselor contacted county social services personnel, and they contacted authorities.

L.A. County sheriff’s detectives eventually taped a conversation between the accuser and Anderson that the girl initiated under the department’s direction. She wore a concealed transmitter, and detectives heard the conversation, sources familiar with the investigation said.

Jon Weiner, a University of Southern California spokesman, said Anderson would remain on administrative leave at his home and continues to be barred from campus.

Anderson was director of the Gene Therapy Laboratories at the USC Keck School of Medicine. He has been dubbed the “father of gene therapy” after a team he led in 1990 cured a hereditary disease of the immune system in a 4-year-old girl.

The child was infused with white cells that had been removed from her blood and supplied with a missing gene. It was the first time that gene therapy was successful in a human.