Prosecution Attacks Butler's Innocence - KCBD NewsChannel 11 Lubbock

11/6/03

Prosecution Attacks Butler's Innocence

Testimony continues at the Federal building in the trial of Tech Researcher Thomas Butler. On Thursday prosecutors attacked Butler's claim that he was unaware of the procedures and policies of transporting hazardous bacteria for research.

The trial started as usual with each witness recounting their connection to this case and the chain of events that followed once notified of the missing bubonic plague vials.  Thursday, two Tech officers took the stand, and talked about the security at the Health Sciences Center. The defense questioned them on previous cases of theft at TTUHSC and the need for more security, possibly a swipe card entry system or even security cameras.  The prosecution pointed out that Butler was well aware of the security and should've better contained his hazardous materials if he had concerns.

Special Agent Mike Orndorff with the FBI testified that the day after the FBI was contacted about the missing vials the story wasn't adding up. When they called Butler in the next morning for more questioning, butler admitted to accidentally destroying the vials. Orndorff said Butler then explained how he brought the samples into the country.

The prosecution spent a couple of hours going over past documents with the agent, showing that in the past butler had used proper procedures to get the specimens and to ship them out of the country. Unlike the batch of bacteria in question. Attempting to establish a pattern of Butler using proper procedures then violating them.

The defense questioned the agents verbatim quotes, countering that they didn't match his previous statements. And pointed out the paper trail they'd used showed that he had used proper procedures for years, and there was underlying permission from the Navy, Army, CDC and FDA on the other cases.

The trial continues on Friday, Butler is charged with 69 counts of smuggling, fraud and lying to federal agents. If convicted he faces life in prison and a multi million dollar fine.

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