Scientist gets jail term

Published: Thursday 15 April 2004

A us scientist, who triggered a bioterrorism scare by illegally shipping back bubonic plague samples he collected from Tanzania last year, has been sentenced to two years' imprisonment by a Texas court. The scientist, Thomas Butler, would also have to shell out us $50,000 in fine and restitution.

Butler was the chief of the division of infectious diseases at Texas Tech University. Earlier, he was found to have defrauded the varsity during a research he carried out for pharmaceutical companies. He had paid us $2,50,000 as compensation to the university, before relinquishing the high-profile position and returning his medical licence.

The 62-year-old scientist hit the headlines in January 2003 when he registered a false police complaint about the loss of 30 vials of plague samples from his lab. Before being arrested, Butler changed his stance and said that he destroyed the samples. He had actually "exported" the samples to Tanzania through a courier service after mislabelling them as just laboratory "materials". The jury found that he did not caution the courier company of the danger involved in transporting the parcel.

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