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Secret Taping Reported in Abuse Case

Detectives monitored conversations and e-mails between a girl and the scientist she says molested her, according to sources.

August 07, 2004|Anna Gorman and Richard Winton | Times Staff Writers

Detectives secretly taped famed USC medical researcher William French Anderson's conversations with a girl who alleges that he sexually molested her, law enforcement sources said.

Anderson also sent a series of responses to e-mails sent by the girl at the direction of investigators, sources said.

The specific contents of the communications could not be learned, but both the tape and the e-mails are likely to be presented as evidence in the criminal case against Anderson, a nationally known researcher in gene therapy, sources said.

Los Angeles prosecutors allege that Anderson sexually abused the girl, who is now 17, from 1997 to 2001. He has pleaded not guilty. The charges are punishable by 56 years in prison.

Anderson, a martial arts expert, taught the girl karate in his San Marino home, prosecutors said.

Sheriff's investigators are also attempting to locate and question other children known to have taken karate lessons from Anderson. Investigators have not ruled out the possibility that there may be other cases involving the scientist, sources said.

"The Sheriff's Department is continuing its investigation of Dr. Anderson, including talking to others he may have mentored over the years," said district attorney's spokeswoman Sandi Gibbons.

Gibbons confirmed that e-mails were exchanged but wouldn't comment on their content or other evidence.

Anderson's defense attorney did not return calls.

The inquiry began a few months ago, after the girl told a counselor about the alleged abuse. The therapist reported the allegations to county social services authorities, who told police. The San Marino Police Department, which has had a long relationship with Anderson, referred the case to investigators for county Sheriff Lee Baca.

Anderson had helped pay for the San Marino police gym, taught officers martial arts and donated money to police functions, sources said.

With the cooperation of the girl, sheriff's detectives began monitoring her communications with Anderson, sources said.

Then, about a month ago, Anderson went to San Marino Police Chief Arl Farris to report that he believed he had been the victim of extortion by the girl and her family. Anderson showed Farris a document that contained his own statement, plus comments from the scientist's wife and a purported statement by the girl, sources said.

Farris turned the information over to the Sheriff's Department to avoid the appearance of a conflict of interest.

In an interview, Farris acknowledged referring the case to the Sheriff's Department but said he could not comment on an investigation by another agency.

One of Anderson's e-mails contained a reference to a gun, which defense attorneys said referred to a possible suicide threat. A judge ordered Anderson to surrender all firearms as a condition of his release Monday.

Anderson had a concealed-weapons permit from the San Marino Police Department. Sources said the permit was issued in part because Anderson had received threatening letters regarding his gene therapy work.

Anderson, who is on administrative leave from USC, teaches biochemistry, molecular biology and pediatrics. He previously spent 27 years at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Md. He is a fifth-degree black belt in tae kwon do.

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