The former Wisconsin pharmacist who admitted to trying to ruin more than 500 doses of Moderna's COVID-19 vaccine was sentenced Tuesday to three years in prison after pleading guilty earlier this year to two felony counts of attempting to tamper with a consumer product.
What are the details?
Steven Brandenburg, 46, was arrested in late December and confessed to intentionally removing 57 vials of the vaccine from refrigeration and leaving them at room temperature overnight to spoil at his then-job at Advocate Aurora Health in Grafton. Each vial contained ten doses.
Brandenburg reportedly claimed at the time that he believed the vaccines were unsafe. Following his arrest, he was barred from serving as a pharmacist.
Moderna ultimately informed Aurora Health that the doses were still viable despite being unrefrigerated. But in the meantime, scores of individuals who received the shots — including several of Brandenburg's co-workers — were left with uncertainty over whether they received a viable, effective inoculation.
WMUR-TV reported that as many as 60 victims were granted the opportunity to submit impact statements at Brandenburg's sentencing. One former colleague of Brandenburg's wrote, "The act of sabotage with the intent to place my life in danger has shaken me to my core." Another told the court, "Steven Brandenburg took the choice from me to receive a stable and known to be safe vaccine."
Ahead of sentencing, Brandenburg told the court that he felt "great shame" for his actions and accepted responsibility, The Associated Press reported.
Prosecutors had asked that Brandenburg serve three years and five months in federal prison for his crime, and the judge ultimately sentenced him to three years behind bars and another three of probation. The former pharmacist was also ordered to pay $84,000 in restitution to Aurora Health.
According to the AP:
Brandenburg is an admitted conspiracy theorist who believes he is a prophet and vaccines are a product of the devil. He also professed a belief that the Earth is flat and the 9/11 terrorist attacks were faked.
Brandenburg also secretly substituted saline for flu vaccine that he was mandated to receive and persuaded several co-workers to secretly swap saline for their flu vaccine as well, according to court filings.