Ruined_towerThe Short Good-Bye – Day Twenty-One of the Autism Omnibus Proceeding – Snyder v. the Secretary of Health and Human Services

By Kent Heckenlively, Esq.

After 4,665 pages of testimony the first three test cases of a planned nine ended with closing arguments totaling 36 pages. 

As an attorney I have to admit I find something so satisfying about the end of a case when each side is required to do their own summation of the evidence.  If law is the way in which civilized societies resolve their differences rather than armed combat, then at their best, attorneys are our modern warriors. 

Instead of brute force though, they use their brains as well as their hearts, so that the truth may be revealed.

Opening Comments by Special Master Denise Vowell

Special Master Vowell began the session by welcoming ten-year-old Colten Snyder along with his brother and sister to the courtroom.  She hoped they would be impressed to see a real court in action as it sought to solve an important issue.

Opening Statement by Mr. Tom Powers – Attorney for the Family (Petitioners)

Mr. Powers began by remarking how at the outset he talked about how the petitioners would show biological plausibility in connecting the vaccines to Colten’s autism.  He reminded the court of how even the testimony from the government’s witnesses conceded that viruses often have “novel and unexpected” consequences.

The measles virus is known to cause diseases like Sub-Acute Sclerosing Panencephalitis (SSPE) and Measles-Induced Brain Encephalopathy (MIBE).  There have been reports from the CDC discussing encephalopathy and other neurological injuries associated with the MMR shot.  A study of HIV patients who were given the MMR shot showed viral persistence 69 days post-shot, a span of time far longer than normal, demonstrating that immuno-suppression can allow for viral persistence. 

The attenuation process to render a virus less lethal so it can be used in a vaccine was described by the government’s own witness as taking place in a “black box”, in which even the best doctors are unaware of exactly what has taken place.

The measles virus was found in Colten’s cerebral spinal fluid, where it was replicating, activating microglia, releasing proinflammatory cytokines, and causing overexcitation of the brain.  It was explained by the petitioner’s expert witnesses how this “neural noise” could cause a child to withdraw into himself.

From the time sequence of Colten getting well-baby visits which showed him as neuro-typical until his MMR shot it’s relatively simple to discern cause and effect.  The core evidence in this case was the finding of measles virus RNA in Colten’s cerebral spinal fluid.

Powers claimed the attack on Dr. O’Leary’s Unigenetics Laboratory was like a house of cards, with “hearsay built upon hearsay.”  The experts for the petitioners didn’t overreach in their testimony.  When they didn’t know something, they admitted it.

In closing, Powers remarked it’s important to remember these are not abstract numbers in a case file, but people with real injuries.  In this instance, the facts presented provided powerful, compelling evidence of causation.

Closing Statement of Mr. Vincent Matanoski – Attorney for the Government (Respondents)

Mr. Matanoski opened by acknowledging the participation of the Snyders and the care and concern they’ve show over the years for Colten.  He lamented that the current system “built a wall” between the government attorneys and the petitioning families, but wanted the Snyders to know that as they read the case files it was clear to the government attorneys what the Snyders had lived with on a daily basis.

Matanoski next turned to the issue of the burden of proof, which he reminded the court meant 50% and a little more.  He noted that petitioners had laid out a multiple-step theory of causation and he wanted to highlight what he saw as the essential questions.

Does mercury cause clinically relevant immuno-suppression?

Does the measles virus cause immuno-suppression?

Does the measles virus persist in the brain and cause damage to the brain in ways never before observed?

Can the measles virus persist in the brain without causing cell destruction?

Can the measles virus persist in the brain in ways which we currently don’t understand?

Can the lab results of Unigenetics be trusted?

In closing he wanted to apologize if his defense had been too passionate at times, but not for what he believed.  Epidemiological studies, although not specifically addressed in this case, have consistently shown no linkage between vaccines and autism.  He considers this case very important in terms of decision-making for vaccine usage and public health.

Rebuttal by Mr. Tom Powers – Attorney for the Family (Petitioners)

Mr. Powers felt the need to respond to criticisms of Unigenetics, which he claimed were based on “conjecture and limited information.”  Regarding the claim that Unigenetics was a “purpose-built lab”, he noted that the pharmaceutical companies had launched a “purpose-built attack” on the lab.

In reference to epidemiology, he said that the scientific community agrees that epidemiology alone is not enough to prove cause and effect in an individual case.  Further, no comparative study has been done of children who have developed normally and regressed into autism after a vaccination.

In closing, he stated that the petitioners were not anti-vaccine, but wanted safe vaccines.

Thoughts on the end of the First Three Cases

The decision now rests with the Special Masters, who should issue a ruling sometime in the next three months.  Although the recent concession in the Poling case might point to how the Special Masters will rule, nothing is certain.

After reading the 4,665 pages of this proceeding and writing 21 articles which total more than 100 pages I hope you’ll forgive me if I close with some personal thoughts.

Like all parents of autistic children I live a difficult life.  I try to keep my family together, my marriage, and my career.  We all dream of a better day for our children.  Are we on the right track in finding out what has happened to our children, or are we deluded parents who endanger public health?  I had a dream some time ago, which is either the sign of something delusional, or hopeful. 

In the dream I stood on a great, grassy plain, while off in the distance rose an enormous, ugly Dark Tower.  I knew the Dark Tower concealed all the lies told about autism as well as the answers we so desperately seek.  A voice whispered in my ear, “The Dark Tower will fall,” but I couldn’t believe it.  The Dark Tower was too powerful.

But then a gigantic bolt of lighting struck the Dark Tower and I watched it crumble to the ground.  The lies were seen for what they were, and we had the information we needed to start healing our children.  I felt a joy well up within me which was almost beyond description.

I can’t tell you if the dream came in response to my difficult life, or was the promise of better times ahead.  I’m trained as a logical thinker and can only tell you I had the dream, not what it means. 

But I know what I believe.  Let’s see what the future brings.

Kent Heckenlively is Legal Editor for Age of Autism.



Georgeous work. Happy 25th. And the same for next year and the next. We're going to need you around for about a century, so you're officially 25 until, say, 2060.


The dark tower will fall.
Evil comes to it's own end.
No civilized nation would knowingly inject it's young with potent toxins unless deceived by a brilliantly orchestrated scheme.
The scheme is doomed to fail. Like the strawman loaded with people, burned to ward off the plague during the Dark Ages.
They knew at Simpsonwood Thimerosal caused a CNS cascade. They knew Wakefield was solid in his findings or why hang him.
They are just vying for time with VICP
I am convinced truth will eventually prevail.

May God protect the children in the waiting.

David Taylor

Kent--So many of us share your life and your dream. But few of us have the talent and daily commitment to writing about this as you have. Your work in this case has been so important to so many. Thank you for it.

Marie Lee

Happy birthday, Kent! Thank you for sharing that. YOUR DREAM is real--I know that for sure. Eat (gluten-free) cake and carry on!


Alison Davis

"I'm trained as a logical thinker.."
Well, I'm trained as a "mother thinker". Take your dream as a gift of encouragement. I know I do. Thank you for sharing your insights on the test cases and your experiences with your family. We're lucky to have you on our side. And keep writing!

Raymond Gallup

Thank you Kent.

I will say some prayers that the Dark Tower will indeed crumble and that truth will prevail for all these families.

Ray Gallup
[email protected]


Happy Birthday Kent and my prayer for you on this birthday is that by your next 25th birthday you will have a sense of relief that justice has been done for your daughter.


Say Happy Birthday to Kent! He's 25 today! (How many times is that now, Kent?)

We're lucky to have Kent writing for us!

Kim Stagliano


Thanks, Kent once again, for your wit and precision reporting. I am left with my jaw dropping at the government's attempt in court to politicize this with scare tactics about public health, and love the petitioner's rebuttal with the comparatively sane appeal for vaccines to be kept safe. I, too, dream of rising above metaphorical Dark Towers and ripping away vast curtains to reveal the mad scientists behind them. We shall overcome. Thanks for urging us forward and onward.

Robyne Rohde

Thank you so much for this information. While we missed the three year statue of limitations for our son, we are following these cases so very closely. Our little boy didn't deserve to have his life taken away from him and God willing someday we will get the little boy back we once knew. Thank you again.


Thank you so so much for all that you have written about these proceedings -- such valuable information which should be available in the mainstream press but (as Jack R. said) is not!

And thank you so so much for all that you write about your family's experiences, which is also so valuable to your readers.

I pray agnostic prayers for all families with autism including yours and Kim's, and for judgements in favor of the petitioners resulting in increased attention to these issues and development of knowledge to enable prevention of and better treatments for autism.

I pray that my imperfect faith is strong enough for these prayers to be answered. And I know that a cadre of dedicated parents and professionals are storming the walls of prejudice and self interest, which seem to be starting to crumble.

Seizures mom

"In closing he wanted to apologize if his defense had been too passionate at times, but not for what he believed. Epidemiological studies, although not specifically addressed in this case, have consistently shown no linkage between vaccines and autism. He considers this case very important in terms of decision-making for vaccine usage and public health."

I would like to know why the attorney for the government had the need or the desire to bring up epidemiological studies as far as this individual case is concerned. Isn't the purpose of this case to see whether the MMR vaccine was responsible for 10 year old Colten Snyder's autism. If it does turn out that the MMR was indeed responsible for the autism, then will the CDC and the AAP stop pushing the vaccine onto unsuspecting children and adults? If yes, then this case is rightfully important for a decision about vaccine usage and public health.

Tim Kasemodel


No need to apologize for personal comments. As I responded to Cathy Jameson on one of her articles, that is the best part of this blog!! You are not writing only for yourself, but for those of us too busy to put our thoughts on paper (or computor).

I have relished your comments on the hearings and your personal views when shared. This is a great example - most of us have dreams we either hope will come true or hope will not. I appreciate the reminder to let the scary ones go without trying to "figure them out" and remember the joyful ones, that we could see those as a "promise of better times ahead".

Thanks Kent.



"I can’t tell you if the dream came in response to my difficult life, or was the promise of better times ahead."

There are times you get dreams when you do have a particularly difficult period ahead, and then you know *why* you got that dream. It is not to lull you into thinking that the times ahead are going to be good, but rather that - when the going is tough, you will rest in the knowledge of a greater power supporting you through the ordeal. It is a given that you are going to be victorious in the end.


Thank you Kent. Thank you for everything you've done, do and will do. I believe your dream might have been sign of things to come.

Jack Russell

Thank you so much for your great writing on these cases. Lord knows we wouldn't have gotten the information anywhere else.

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