Issue Date: March 15, 2004
Butler gets two-year sentence
A federal judge has sentenced plague researcher Thomas C. Butler to 24 months in federal prison. The former Texas Tech professor reported missing 30 vials of plague-causing bacteria and touched off a bioterrorism scare. Butler was also fined $15,000 and ordered to pay restitution of $38,000 to the university. He is currently free on bond but must report to federal authorities on April 14. In December, a jury found Butler, formerly chief of the division of infectious diseases at Texas Tech University Medical School, guilty of mislabeling a Federal Express package that contained plague samples he had sent to Tanzania. In all, he was found guilty of 47 charges out of 69 originally filed by prosecutors (C&EN, Dec. 8, 2003, page 9). Butler was acquitted of the most serious charges of smuggling and illegally transporting the potentially deadly germ, as well as charges of lying to federal agents about the missing vials. He faced up to 240 years in prison.
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