Department of Energy fires non-binary nuclear waste expert Sam Brinton after alleged luggage theft

Sam Brinton
Sam BrintonPhoto: US Department of Energy

Sam Brinton, a 35-year-old nonbinary federal government official and a high-profile LGBTQ+ activist, has reportedly been fired from the Department of Energy (DOE) after allegedly being caught on camera stealing two different women’s bags from airports.

“Sam Brinton is no longer a DOE employee,” a DOE spokesperson told The Daily Beast. Brinton worked as deputy assistant secretary for spent fuel and waste disposition in the DOE’s Office of Nuclear Energy.

“By law, the Department of Energy cannot comment further on personnel matters,” the DOE spokesperson added.

Last week, Brinton was accused of stealing a second woman’s bag worth an estimated $3,670 from the Harry Reid International Airport in Las Vegas, Nevada. Video footage reportedly showed Brinton looking around suspiciously, placing the bag on an airport luggage carousel, and taking it the second time it came around.

Brinton was first accused of stealing luggage worth over $2,500 from the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport on September 16.

Court documents, in that case, allege that security camera footage caught Brinton removing the bag from the airport baggage claim carousel, ripping off the bag’s tag, and hurrying out the door. Brinton later said they took the bag by mistake even though they hadn’t checked any bags on the flight. Brinton was later caught on camera checking the same bag in as their own on two subsequent airport trips.

Brinton first denied taking the bag when questioned by legal officials. They later claimed that they took the bag by mistake and emptied out its contents in a hotel room over fears that others might think that they had deliberately stolen it.

The DOE placed Brinton on leave following the first accusation of theft.

Brinton became a high-profile LGBTQ+ activist after their 2010 claim that an ex-gay conversion therapist punched, burned, electrocuted, and stabbed them in order to change their sexual orientation. However, they had their story questioned by LGBTQ+ activists.

Most notably, longtime anti-conversion therapy activist Wayne Besen said that Brinton claimed not to remember the name of their abusive former therapist or the facility where the therapy occurred even though they had allegedly undergone the mistreatment for two or three years.

“Why was Sam Brinton the only survivor of conversion therapy I’ve encountered since 1998 who refused to answer these questions?” Besen wrote at LGBTQ Nation. “Not only had every other survivor provided this information willingly, but they were eager to fight back and shut down their own therapist or ‘ex-gay’ minister.”

“The reason we scrutinize potential spokespeople is to protect the LGBTQ+ movement and ensure that we don’t offer media platforms to charlatans or elevate morally suspect people who would do something like steal luggage at an airport,” Besen added. “Tragically, [national LGBTQ+ groups elevated] the one person with an unverifiable flashy story, and now we suffer the consequences.”

Brinton could face a minimum of five years imprisonment, a $10,000 fine, or both if convicted for their alleged luggage theft.

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