On Tuesday, June 8, a federal judge sentenced a Wisconsin pharmacist to three years in jail for destroying 500 Covid-19 vaccine doses “during a national public health emergency.”
On January 26, Steven Brandenburg, 46, of Grafton, agreed to plead guilty to two felony counts of attempting to tamper with a consumer product. He confessed to purposefully removing Moderna doses from a refrigerator at Aurora Medical Center in Grafton, just north of Milwaukee, for several hours.
Brandenburg claimed he felt “great shame” and accepted responsibility for his actions in a statement released before his sentence. He apologized to his coworkers, family, and community, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported.
“I just want to finish by saying I am greatly ashamed and I thank you, your honor, for allowing me to say that,” he said.
For each count, he could have faced a maximum sentence of ten years in prison. Brandenburg, on the other hand, faced up to 51 months in prison under federal sentence guidelines.
Brandenburg will serve another three years of supervised release after finishing his 36-month sentence. He was also forced to pay restitution of $83,000.
“The purposeful attempt to spoil vaccine doses during a national public health emergency is a serious crime,” Acting Assistant Attorney General Brian Boynton said in a statement. “The Department of Justice will continue working with its law enforcement partners to safeguard these life-saving vaccine.”
In December, Brandenburg was fired from the Aurora Medical Center in Grafton, Wisconsin, after admitting to “intentionally removed the vaccine from refrigeration.”
During two successive overnight shifts in December, Brandenburg intentionally removed doses of the Moderna vaccine from its refrigeration, potentially rendering them ineffective because the vaccine vials must be stored at specified temperatures, prosecutors said, reports NPR.
According to the Department of Justice, Brandenburg then returned the vaccines to the refrigerator after realizing they had been left out, resulting in 57 patients being injected with potentially spoiled inoculations.
Brandenburg is a self-proclaimed conspiracy theorist who believes he is a prophet and vaccines are the devil’s work. He substituted saline for the vaccine in his own shot and managed to convince several co-workers to do the same for their mandatory vaccine.
The Wisconsin Pharmacy Examining Board suspended Brandenburg’s license earlier this year, preventing him from practicing at state pharmacies.