US nuclear official charged with stealing suitcase from airport

Criminal complaint states official became ‘nervous people would think they stole the bag and did not know what to do’

Gustaf Kilander
Washington, DC
Wednesday 30 November 2022 13:13 GMT
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US nuclear official Sam Brinton is facing accusations that they stole a suitcase at an airport in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

Court documents reveal that the 35-year-old, who was appointed this year as the head of spent nuclear fuel management at the Department of Energy, allegedly stole a bag from a carousel at Minneapolis-St Paul International Airport, leading to Brinton being charged with felony theft.

After starting their new role as deputy assistant secretary of the Office of Spent Fuel and Waste Disposition in June, Brinton was spotted on security footage in September retrieving a bag that appeared similar to one that had been reported missing.

The bag was described as “a navy blue hard-sided roller bag” in a criminal complaint filed on 27 October, according to Exchange Monitor.

The legal filing states that Brinton appeared to remove the “bag’s tag and put the bag tag in the handbag they were carrying,” and “left the area at a quick pace”.

The complaint states that Brinton told law enforcement officials that “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,” they said.

Brinton allegedly got in touch with airport staff later to say that they hadn’t been “completely honest” and “admitted to taking the blue bag”.

They said they were “tired and took the suitcase thinking it was theirs”.

The complaint states that Brinton grew nervous after opening the bag as they realized it wasn’t theirs. They said they became “nervous people would think they stole the bag and did not know what to do”.

The legal filing states that the woman who reported the bag as missing identified the bag as being hers after watching several surveillance videos. She said the value of the bag and the contents total around $2,325.

According to the Minneapolis-St Paul Airport Police Department, Brinton arrived in Minnesota on an American Airlines flight from Washington DC and they didn’t check a bag.

Surveillance footage from 18 September then showed Brinton checking a blue bag on a flight back to Washington, the complaint says.

Law enforcement got in touch with Brinton after they were seen on security footage on 9 October arriving back at Dulles International Airport in Virginia following a trip to Europe to discuss what took place the previous month, according to the complaint.

Brinton said they left the clothes from the bag in a drawer at the InterContinental St Paul Riverfront hotel.

“No clothing was recovered from the hotel room,” the complaint said.

It has been reported that Brinton has been on leave from the Energy Department for at least a month.

A hearing has been set for 19 December. Brinton could face as much as five years in prison and a $10,000 fine if convicted.

The acting deputy assistant secretary for spent fuel, Kim Petry, who has been covering for Brinton, wrote in an email to co-workers on 18 November that Kathryn Huff, the assistant secretary for nuclear energy, asked Ms Petry to stay in her role for the “foreseeable future,” according to Exchange Monitor.

“I should have another update for all of you in a month or so,” Ms Petry added.

That overlaps with Brinton’s scheduled appearance in Hennepin County District Court on 19 December.

In a statement to The Independent, the Department of Energy said “Sam Brinton is on leave from DOE, and Dr Kim Petry is performing the duties of Deputy Assistant Secretary of Spent Fuel and Waste Disposition”.

The Independent has reached out to Brinton’s attorney for comment.

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