Joe Biden’s former senior official for nuclear waste disposal at the U.S. Department of Energy, Sam Brinton, was released from a Minnesota detention facility without bail after being charged with theft of a woman’s luggage worth $2,325 at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport.
Brinton, who oversaw nuclear waste policy, was instructed by the judge not to have contact with any of the victims. He was scheduled to appear in court on December 19, but his lawyers requested a postponement, and the hearing was eventually held on Wednesday.
Nonbinary former Biden official Sam Brinton accused of serial luggage theft released without bail https://t.co/ms3FVhtGda
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If Brinton is found guilty, he faces up to five years in prison and a fine of $10,000.
Although Brinton left the Department of Energy last year, the reason for his departure was not made public. However, the agency faced pressure from Republican lawmakers over his employment status and security clearance amid the theft allegations. Brinton is also accused of stealing another bag worth $3,670, containing jewelry, clothing, and makeup, at Harry Reid International Airport in Las Vegas on June 6, 2022.
Investigators in Las Vegas reopened their probe into the theft following reports of the Minnesota case. In December, Brinton was released after his bail was set at $15,000. He faces up to ten years in prison for the Las Vegas theft.
During the preliminary hearing, the judge referred to Brinton as “Mx. Brinton,” a term commonly used for individuals who identify as non-binary. Brinton asked to attend the hearing virtually, but the judge denied that request.
Brinton told investigators previously that the incident was an “accident” but also admitted to the crime.
Brinton allegedly removed a tag from a woman’s suitcase and walked out of the airport with it. American Airlines confirmed that he had not checked a bag for the flight despite leaving the airport with one. Two days after the theft, Brinton checked the bag as if it was his when he boarded another flight, and he also used the bag for a trip to Europe in October.
Republican lawmakers have criticized the Biden administration for employing Brinton, with Rep. Jim Banks (R-IN), chairman of the Republican Study Committee, stating that “Americans deserve transparency about who and what their taxpayer dollars are funding.”
A spokesperson for the Department of Energy responded to media requests regarding Brinton’s prosecution by saying, “By law, the Department of Energy cannot comment further on personnel matters.”