Reporting Tom Reopelle
SAN DIEGO (CBS) — A 92-year-old retired school teacher who sold kits designed to help people commit suicide avoided jail time on Monday when she was sentenced in San Diego for failing to file federal tax returns.
KNX 1070′s Tom Reopelle reports Sharlotte Hydorn faced a maximum sentence of up to one year in prison for her failure to pay taxes on at least $42,000 in sales revenue.
Instead, Hydorn was sentenced to five years of supervised probation and ordered to pay a fine of $1,000.
She pleaded guilty last December to a misdemeanor charge of failing to file a tax return, admitting that she had failed to file federal income tax returns since 2007.
U.S. Magistrate Judge Bernard Skomal found that Hydorn violated state law by selling more than 1,300 suicide kits in the United States and internationally since 2007, profiting from those sales and failing to pay taxes on that income.
Outside the courthouse, a relieved Hydorn said the only reason she began the business over three decades ago was to relieve her late husband’s suffering.
“The cancer had gone to his brain and he said, ‘Home, home,’ he wanted to go home, but I couldn’t take him,” Hydorn said.
As part of her probation, Hydorn is prohibited from further sales of the suicide kits.
Defense attorney Charles Goldberg said Hydorn has filed tax returns and paid taxes dating back to 2007 and is still working with the Internal Revenue Service to resolve taxes owed.
Hydorn told investigators that while she anticipated her suicide kits would be used by the terminally ill, she made no effort to verify the physical condition, age, identity or mental condition of customers.
Investigators said it was clear that Hydorn had no way of knowing if a suicide kit purchaser was simply depressed or a minor acting without the consent of a parent. Authorities said the defendant sold the kits to anyone who mailed her $40.
According to court records, Hydorn concealed the true nature of her suicide kits when filling out U.S. Customs forms required to sell goods internationally, in which she variously described them as an “orchid humidifier,” an “orchid kit,” a “beauty bonnet” and a “plastic rain hood.”
Documents seized from Hydorn’s home stated that she preferred customers to pay with money orders so they wouldn’t leave a paper trail.
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