The Biden administration official overseeing spent nuclear fuel at the Department of Energy has been charged with stealing a checked bag from baggage claim at the Minneapolis-St. Paul airport.
Deputy Assistant Secretary for Spent Fuel and Waste Disposition Sam Brinton, on the job since June, is facing charges of theft and up to 5 years in prison and a $10,000 fine. Brinton has been on leave from the job for a month, timed to the filing of a criminal complaint. The acting deputy assistant secretary for spent fuel has been placed in charge of the office “for the foreseeable future.”
Minnesota alleged that Brinton on Sep. 16 was seen on airport surveillance footage removing “a navy blue hard-sided roller bag” from a baggage claim carousel — a bag similar to one reported missing that day.
Brinton “removed the blue bag’s tag and put the bag tag in the handbag they were carrying,” and “left the area at a quick pace,” the complaint said.
The woman who reported the bag missing, and identified the bag as hers in multiple surveillance videos, said the total value of items in the allegedly stolen bag was roughly $2,325, the complaint said.
The agency official had flown in on an American Eagle flight from Washington’s National airport. Two days later, they checked the blue bag they’d taken from baggage claim for their trip back to D.C. When confronted weeks later by police they denied taking the wrong bag, offering “If I had taken the wrong bag, I am happy to return it, but I don’t have clothes for another individual. That was my clothes when I opened the bag.” However they later admitted to lying, confessing they’d taken the bag.
According to the complaint, Brinton revised their statement and said they were “tired and took the suitcase thinking it was theirs.” After opening the bag and realizing it wasn’t theirs, Brinton said they were “nervous people would think they stole the bag and did not know what to do.”
Brinton said they left the clothes that had been in the bag in a drawer at the InterContinental St. Paul Riverfront hotel, where they were staying. The complaint said that “no clothing was recovered from the hotel room.” At the time the complaint was filed, Brinton had not yet returned the bag.
The person chosen to oversee spent nuclear fuel needs to be… beyond reproach. Even if this official can manage to have charges reduced or even dropped, I imagine they won’t hold sufficient security clearance for their position going forward. This is also a setback for activists within the administration, because Briton is believed to be the “first openly gender-fluid person in federal government leadership.”