Federal prosecutors have asked that a Grafton pharmacist be jailed as soon as he enters expected guilty pleas to attempt to ruin more than 500 doses of COVID-19 vaccine in December.
Steven Brandenburg, 46, was charged last month in federal court and signed a simultaneous agreement to plead guilty to two counts of a federal tampering charge that carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison.
He is scheduled to enter that plea today, via Zoom. In typical plea deals, the defendant would enter the plea and return at a later date for sentencing. But prosecutors filed a memo Monday indicating they will ask that Brandenburg be taken into custody to await sentencing.
“At that time, it will be Defendant’s burden to establish, by clear and convincing evidence, that he does not pose a risk to public safety,” prosecutors wrote. “He cannot clear this threshold, given the chilling evidence recounted here.”
The memo lays out the danger of the pandemic and how Brandenburg, an admitted conspiracy theorist, substituted saline for regular flu vaccines, brought a gun to work and eventually took deliberate steps to damage the Moderna vaccine by leaving it out of a hospital refrigerator on Dec. 24 and Dec. 25.
On Dec. 26, more than 50 people got does of the vaccine Brandenburg had left unrefrigerated for about nine hours.
“But even if the vaccine received by these fifty-seven people remained effective despite Defendant’s best efforts — which is currently the Government’s best guess, based on testing completed to date — the harms here were multifaceted and severe,” the memo reads.
“Most obviously, the fifty-seven people who received the vaccine have been forced to live with the uncertainty and anxiety associated with not knowing what has been put into their bodies.”
Beyond espousing beliefs that earth is flat and the 9/11 attack was faked, Brandenburg faked labeling at the hospital to get co-workers to substitute saline for their own flu vaccines, a requirement of employment. The altered labeling made it appear the workers took the proper flu vaccines, according to the government memo.
Prosecutors called it “even more disturbing” that Brandenburg brought firearms to work, another violation of employment rules at the Aurora Medical Center hospital. One co-worker told investigators Brandenburg showed her the gun and said he kept it in case the military comes for him.
Prosecutors further note that Brandenburg has been hailed as a hero among other vaccine skeptics and damages efforts to persuade everyone to be vaccinated.
“Public health authorities have been working diligently, for months, to educate the public about the benefits of vaccination against COVID-19, and Defendant’s crimes directly undermined those efforts,” the memo reads.
“The human cost associated with those harms is difficult to quantify but very real. The Court should ensure no further damage is done by detaining the Defendant pending sentencing.”