DA moves to dismiss state case against pharmacist

Gerol says punishment for misdemeanor would add little to three-year federal sentence for vaccine tampering
By 
BILL SCHANEN IV
Ozaukee Press staff

Ozaukee County District Attorney Adam Gerol has asked that his case against a Grafton pharmacist who tried to ruin more than 500 doses of Covid-19 vaccine at the height of the pandemic be dismissed, noting that the punishment for the misdemeanor he faces in circuit court would add little to the three-year prison sentence he received in federal court earlier this month.

“While I had hoped for a longer sentence,” Gerol wrote in a petition to dismiss the case, referring to the three years in prison Steven R. Brandenburg was ordered to serve in the federal case, “that simply isn’t something I could now materially change by obtaining a conviction here.”

While Brandenburg tried to ruin doses of the vaccine in December when he worked as a pharmacist at Aurora Medical Center in Grafton, he failed. Testing revealed the vaccine he intentionally left unrefrigerated remained effective. 

His attempt to sabotage the vaccine is a felony under federal law, but under state law the most serious crime he could be charged with was a misdemeanor count of attempted criminal damage to property punishable by a maximum nine months in jail, Gerol wrote in his petition. 

He noted that if Brandenburg were convicted and received the maximum sentence, he would likely end up serving less than seven months in jail because of credit for good behavior. 

At the same time, continuing his prosecution in Ozaukee County would come at a cost to taxpayers, Gerol said.

“If I had greater exposure (to a substantive punishment) available to use on conviction, I would continue to maintain this action despite the costs,” he wrote. “However, continuing to litigate this matter to simply achieve at most a few more months of incarceration following the defendant’s three-year prison sentence is not in the public’s interest.”

In addition to prison, U.S. District Judge Brett Ludwig sentenced Brandenburg to three years of extended supervision and ordered him to pay $83,000 in restitution during a June 8 hearing in Milwaukee. 

Brandenburg pleaded guilty in February 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 or bodily injury.

During two consecutive overnight shifts in December, Brandenburg removed a box of the Moderna Covid-19 vaccine from a refrigeration unit at the Grafton hospital. The vaccine must be stored at specific cold temperatures to remain viable.

After leaving the vaccine out for several hours each night, Brandenburg returned it to the refrigerator so it could be used in the hospital’s vaccine clinic the following day.

Fifty-seven people receive doses of the vaccine that Brandenburg tampered with. The remaining doses were destroyed when Aurora discovered what Brandenburg had done.

Brandenburg was fired by Aurora on Dec. 30 and his pharmacist license has been revoked.

Brandenburg is described in court documents as a conspiracy theorist and vaccine skeptic who thought Moderna’s Covid-19 vaccine was microchipped and would render recipients infertile.

He also thought vaccines were “of the devil,” the documents states.

Authorities noted Brandenburg had persuaded co-workers to receive shots of saline instead of the flu vaccine in the past and had brought a handgun to work on at least one occasion.

Brandenburg’s actions were investigated by Grafton police as well as the Milwaukee Field Office of the FBI and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s Office of Criminal Investigations.

While the misdemeanor case against Brandenburg no longer serves a purpose, it did at one time because it allowed the court to govern his behavior with bail conditions while the federal case was being developed, Gerol wrote. 

Under those bail conditions, Brandenburg could not possess guns, distribute medication or have contact with Aurora facilities or any of his co-workers there. 

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Wisconsin’s largest paid circulation community weekly newspaper. Serving Port Washington, Saukville, Grafton, Fredonia, Belgium, as well as Ozaukee County government. Locally owned and printed in Port Washington, Wisconsin.

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