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Sam Brinton, Biden Nuclear Waste Official, Accused of Luggage Theft – Rolling Stone

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A Department of Energy official with a passion for fashion may be sourcing their wardrobe from stolen luggage.

Sam Brinton, deputy assistant secretary of spent fuel and waste disposition in the Office of Nuclear Energy, has now been twice accused of stealing luggage from airports. The latest reported charge comes after they allegedly lifted a bag from Harry Reid International Airport in Las Vegas.

Brinton — who is the first openly non-binary individual to serve in a federal government leadership role — was first charged with felony theft in October for allegedly nabbing a woman’s Vera Bradley suitcase off a baggage carousel at the Minneapolis-St. Paul airport. Brinton allegedly stuffed the suitcase’s luggage tag in their handbag before leaving the airport. There are no records of Brinton checking a bag at their departure airport. Brinton was tracked down by authorities, and while initially claiming their own belongings had been in the suitcase, they later told authorities they had emptied the bag’s contents in the hotel room before checking the bag as their own luggage on a flight to Washington, D.C. Authorities “learned no clothing was recovered from the hotel room.” 

Las Vegas’ 8 News Now reported on Thursday that a felony warrant has been issued for Brinton regarding a second incident of stolen luggage, this time at Harry Reid International Airport. Brinton is wanted on charges of grand larceny for items with a value between $1,200 and $5,000. 

According to the declaration of warrant, which was reviewed by Rolling Stone, the theft took place in July of this year. The case was initially closed as law enforcement failed to identify Brinton, who was captured on CCTV footage removing a woman’s luggage from baggage claim. Following news reports of the incident in Minneapolis, the detective assigned to the case recognized Brinton. Law enforcement secured an identification by cross referencing the clothing they were wearing in security footage — a shirt with a rainbow atomic nuclear symbol — with social media posts from the day the luggage was stolen.

Brinton, who holds dual masters degrees from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in nuclear science and engineering, was selected to serve in the Biden administration in Jan. 2022. Brinton had previously worked as a nuclear policy analyst at the Bipartisan Policy Center, and with nuclear waste disposal company Deep Isolation. In November, following the first accusation of theft, Brinton was placed on leave from their position at the Office of Nuclear energy. 

Brinton has combined a passion for the sciences with advocacy for the LGBTQ+ community throughout their career. They were a staunch supporter of banning conversion therapy throughout the country, working closely with groups like the Trevor Project and The Human Rights Campaign. Brinton cultivated a stylized personal brand, and even made an appearance at the 2018 Oscars. 

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Brinton claims to have been the victim of horrific torture at the hands of a conversion therapist, allegations that jumpstarted their career as an activist. Other LGBTQ+ advocates have raised concerns regarding the veracity of Brinton’s claims, pointing to inconsistencies in the timeline, and stonewalling by Brinton regarding the identity or even location of the therapist.

On Wednesday, Truth Wins Out (an anti-conversion therapy advocacy group) founding Executive Director Wayne Besen accused prominent LGBTQ+ activist groups of ignoring “clear warning signs” and engaging in “sloppy, ethically negligent, and shockingly unprofessional” behavior in elevating Brinton without thoroughly vetting their background. The situation has now led to a national pile on by conservative media and anti-LGBTQ+ advocates, who are using Brinton’s status as a prominent figure to browbeat and malign the community.