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Crime and punishment

Wisconsin pharmacist will plead guilty to COVID-19 vaccine sabotage

Steven Brandenburg, the Wisconsin pharmacist accused of intentionally sabotaging hundreds of doses of Moderna's COVID-19 vaccine, will plead guilty to two counts of "attempting to tamper with consumer products with reckless disregard for the risk that another person would be placed in danger of death and bodily injury," the Justice Department announced Tuesday. Each count carries up to 10 years in prison. After his arrest, police called Brandenburg, 46, an "admitted conspiracy theorist," and his federal plea agreement bolsters that label.

Brandenburg had told his coworkers about his beliefs in "conspiracy theories" and "alternative history" for at least two years, his plea deal says, and he had let it be known he was a skeptic of the Moderna vaccine specifically, and vaccines in general. On the nights of Dec. 24 and 25, he left two batches of the vaccine out of refrigeration for several hours, and the spoiled vaccine was then injected into the arms of 57 people, the Justice Department said. The sabotaged vaccines are not believed to be dangerous, but researchers are checking to see if the lack of refrigeration sapped their efficacy.