Longtime LGBTQ advocate Sam Brinton, who earlier this year became the country’s first openly gender-fluid senior government official, is no longer employed by the Department of Energy after facing two separate allegations of luggage theft.
A department spokesperson confirmed Tuesday that Brinton is no longer the deputy assistant secretary of the Office of Spent Fuel and Waste Disposition but would not elaborate.
“By law, the Department of Energy cannot comment further on personnel matters,” the spokesperson said in an email.
Brinton did not immediately return a request for comment.
The departure of Brinton, who uses they/them pronouns, comes after multiple local news outlets reported that Brinton is accused of stealing a suitcase at Las Vegas’ Harry Reid International Airport in July, according to an arrest warrant issued Thursday. NBC News has requested a copy of the warrant from the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department but has not received it yet.
This is not the first felony theft allegation leveled against Brinton. In October, they were placed on leave from their government position following an investigation into allegations that they stole a Vera Bradley suitcase from the baggage claim at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport on Sept. 16.
The estimated value of the bag missing from the Minneapolis airport and its contents is $2,325, according to a complaint filed with Minnesota’s 4th Judicial District Court on Oct. 27. If convicted, Brinton could face five years in prison, a $10,000 fine or both, according to the complaint.
In the Minnesota case, law enforcement said surveillance footage shows Brinton removing the luggage tag from the suitcase and putting the tag into a handbag that they were carrying, according to the complaint. Records show that Brinton did not check a bag when they departed Washington, D.C., for Minneapolis, the complaint states.
Brinton initially denied knowingly taking anything that didn’t belong to them during a conversation with law enforcement Oct. 9, but they called back a few hours later and said they hadn’t been “completely honest,” the complaint says. Brinton then said they were tired and took the Vera Bradley bag thinking it was theirs, and they only realized their mistake when they opened the bag at their hotel.
Brinton said they became nervous that people would think they stole the bag, so they left the clothes from the bag inside the drawers of a hotel room and then took the bag back to the airport with them Sept. 18 and checked it, according to the complaint, which also stated that no clothing was recovered from the hotel room.
In the Las Vegas case, police were unable to identify a suspect in airport surveillance footage until an officer saw a news article in November about the Minnesota incident involving Brinton, ABC affiliate KLAS-TV reported.
Brinton has been a prominent LGBTQ advocate for more than a decade. They initially gained visibility after sharing their harrowing experience with so-called conversion therapy, which is a discredited practice that attempts to change someone’s sexual orientation or gender identity.
In 2017, Brinton told NBC News that their parents sent them to a conversion therapist when they were 11, and that they were subjected to extreme and abusive techniques, such as electroshock therapy.
Prior to joining the Energy Department, Brinton served as the vice president of advocacy and government affairs for The Trevor Project, a national LGBTQ youth suicide prevention and crisis intervention organization.
Brinton has also faced transphobic media attacks since October, with publications referring to them as a “drag queen” and misgendering them.
On Dec. 7, Rep. Andrew Clyde of Georgia and 15 other House Republicans sent a letter to Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm requesting that she demand Brinton’s resignation, according to a copy of the letter that a spokesperson for Clyde shared with NBC News.
A court hearing for allegations Brinton is facing in Minnesota has been set for Dec. 19.
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