The attorney for former InterMune Inc. CEO Scott Harkonen plans to pursue a First Amendment argument in appealing Harkonen’s conviction on a wire fraud charge.
Harkonen was sentenced last week to a $20,000 fine and six months of home confinement after a jury in September 2009 found him guilty of wire fraud. The center of the Department of Justice’s prosecution was an Aug. 28, 2002, press release that said the InterMune drug Actimmune in a Phase III trial reduced deaths by 70 percent in patients with mild to moderate idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis, a fatal lung-scarring disease.
But Mark Haddad of Sidley Austin LLP said Harkonen’s statement in the press release is protected speech because the CEO was drawing a scientific conclusion of data accurately reported in the press release. “To show conclusions of data is fundamental to the scientific process,” Haddad said.