A former top government AIDS research scientist has been been fined $12,000, put on three years' probation and ordered to serve 1,750 hours of unpaid community service on corruption charges tied to his work as an AIDS researcher at the National Institutes of Health.
Sayed Zaki Salahuddin, 49, tearfully apologized to Judge John R. Hargrove at sentencing yesterday in U.S. District Court in Baltimore and assured him that such conduct "will never happen again."
Salahuddin, world renowned for his research into acquired immune deficiency syndrome, pleaded guilty last month to accepting $12,000 worth of illegal gratuities from Pan Data Systems Inc., a Bethesda supply firm that his wife, Firoza, founded. He also pleaded guilty to a conflict-of-interest count for buying goods and services from that company while he worked at the National Cancer Institute at NIH.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Dale P. Kelberman said the illegal-gratuities charge was the more serious one. The conflict-of-interest statute, which was rewritten by Congress last year, rarely is used in government prosecutions and also rarely results in incarceration, Kelberman said.
But the prosecutor said Salahuddin's fine "and the fact that he was prosecuted at all for the conflict of interest sends a message to others [government workers] that their dealings with outside agencies have to be scrupulous and above board."
Defense attorney Seymour Glanzer said Salahuddin now is working as a professor of research medicine at the University of Southern California at Los Angeles, even though he has no doctorate, and is directing research on chronic fatigue syndrome at a center in Pasadena, Calif.
Hargrove said he intended to put Salahuddin's talent to work for society rather than to send him to jail "because your scientific contributions far outweigh any [prison] sentence I could give you."
Salahuddin resigned from the National Cancer Institute last spring in the wake of the federal investigation that led to the criminal charges.
He had worked since 1982 in the tumor cell biology laboratory of noted AIDS researcher Dr. Robert C. Gallo and was one of the NIH scientists credited with discovering the cause of AIDS in 1984.