Virologist Pleads Guilty to Child Abuse

WASHINGTON--Nobel laureate Daniel Carleton Gajdusek pleaded guilty to two counts of child abuse yesterday. Gajdusek, 73, who is currently free on $350,000 bail, is expected to serve a jail term of between 9 months and 1 year and be on probation for 5 years. Sentencing is set for 29 April. According to a plea bargain entered yesterday in the Frederick County Circuit Court in Maryland, he will be allowed to conduct virus research overseas as soon as he finishes serving his sentence. In most cases, a person cannot travel for extended periods during probation.

The charges stem from allegations of sexual abuse by one of more than 50 boys Gajdusek brought back from his research trips to Micronesia. The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) began probing Gajdusek's relationships with the boys after receiving complaints from Congress about journals published by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in which Gajdusek described his sexual experiences on the islands. According to court documents, Gajdusek admitted to a sexual encounter during a conversation secretly taped by the FBI. Federal and state charges of sexual abuse were dropped under the plea agreement.

On Monday, Gajdusek resigned from his position as chief of NIH's Laboratory for Central Nervous System Studies. He has been on leave since last April. In 1976, Gajdusek shared the Nobel Prize for his work on degenerative brain diseases. He showed that a disease called kuru could be transmitted among New Guinea natives when they ate the brains of the dead.