The Energy Department’s official in charge of spent nuclear fuel is on leave after being charged with the felony theft of a fellow airline passenger’s luggage, the department confirmed Tuesday.
Sam Brinton, deputy assistant secretary of the Office of Spent Fuel and Waste Disposition, appeared on surveillance footage at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport in September taking a bag from a claim that matched the description of luggage a woman had reported missing, according to an October court filing. The filing states that Brinton can be seen removing the tag from the bag and hastily leaving the area.
Brinton, who uses they/them pronouns, initially told law enforcement, “If I had taken the wrong bag, I am happy to return it, but I don’t have clothes for another individual,” but they later conceded they had “not been completely honest” and were “tired and took the suitcase thinking it was theirs,” the filing states.
“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,” an Energy Department spokesperson told The Hill.
Brinton is due to appear in court in connection with the charges on Dec. 19. The charges are punishable by up to five years in prison and a $10,000 fine.
Petry, whose resume includes a year as the Office of Spent Fuel and Waste Disposition’s acting deputy assistant secretary before Brinton began, has previously worked for the Energy Department’s Office of Integrated Waste Management as acting director. Since June 2022, she has served as a senior policy adviser at the department.