Sam Brinton, the deputy assistant secretary for spent fuel and waste disposition at the Department of Energy’s Office of Nuclear Energy, was charged with stealing a traveler’s luggage from the Minneapolis airport. The alleged theft took place in September, authorities said.

Brinton is one of Joe Biden administration’s first gender non-binary officials. Court documents revealed that Brinton was charged with felony theft after allegedly snatching a Vera Bradley suitcase reportedly worth $2,325.

Brinton, who uses they/them pronouns, were later seen using the stolen suitcase on at least two occasions, while traveling to Washington, DC, on September 18 and October 9, investigators said.

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“If I had taken the wrong bag, I am happy to return it, but I don’t have any clothes for another individual,” Brinton first told the officer. “That was my clothes when I opened the bag.”

However, they later confessed to not being honest. If convicted, Brinton could face up to five years in prison and/or a $10,000 fine.

Who is Sam Brinton?

Sam Brinton was raised in Perry, Iowa. His parents were Southern Baptist missionaries who disapproved of their child’s attraction to a male friend from school.

The 34-year-old graduated from Kansas State University with a Bachelor of Science in nuclear engineering and vocal music. Brinton has a dual Master of Science degree in nuclear engineering, technology and policy from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

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They were heavily involved in the Trevor Project, a suicide prevention resource that offers toll-free support to young LGBTQ+ people.

In January 2022, Brinton became one of the first openly gender-fluid officials to work in the federal government. 

Brinton is married to Kevin Rieck.