Archives for April 12, 2003

Lubbock Professor Indicted On Missing Plague Charges

Per ““:

FORT WORTH, Texas — A Texas Tech professor is facing a long list of federal charges after erroneously reporting vials of bubonic plague missing from a university lab.

Last January, Dr. Thomas Butler, 61, reported the plague missing when it was not, triggering a nationwide terrorism alert and sending FBI agents rushing into Lubbock, Texas.

Butler first said the plague was missing but later admitted he had accidentally destroyed the vials, according to court documents filed by the FBI.

Butler is a noted researcher who had previously worked at Johns Hopkins and Case Western Reserve universities. He’s is on paid leave from Texas Tech’s medical school, where he is chief of the infectious diseases division.

Butler was freed on $100,000 bond shortly after his arrest in January.

His attorney, Floyd Holder, said Butler will plead not guilty to the 15-count indictment.

Butler faces up to 74 years in prison and almostd $4 million in fines if convicted.

Good news? No plague in terrorist hands. Bad news? Poor judgement by someone for whom judgement is the lives of others. His career is irreparable, and he’s going to stand trial (and be convicted of something).

Honesty. The unpleasantly best policy.

Baggage Handler Shot; Baggage Packer in BIG Trouble

Per one of our local TV stations, as quoted on

GRAPEVINE, Texas, 5:15 p.m. CDT April 11, 2003 – An airline employee was accidentally shot Friday morning while handling baggage at Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport.

Officials said an American Airlines baggage screener dropped a piece of luggage that contained a gun. The gun then reportedly discharged at a ramp area in Terminal C at about 11:30 and shot the employee in the foot. The worker was treated at a Grapevine hospital and later released.

The airport has referred the case to the FBI and Transportation Security Administration.

To me, this is inexcusable. (There’s a joke in here about getting even with baggage handlers for treating bags badly, but that’s not funny right now). The rules for traveling with firearms aren’t secrets, and are openly available. And putting a loaded gun in your luggage is more than stupid, it’s dangerous (ask the fellow with the newly creased foot). This could just as well have gone off inflight, causing all kinds of problems, up to and including loss of the aircraft (and you, you fool, who packed a loaded gun in your suitcase). says:

Firearms and Ammunition may not be carried by a passenger on an aircraft. However, unloaded firearms may be transported in checked baggage if declared to the agent at check in and packed in a crush-proof container manufactured specifically for the firearm or a hard-sided suitcase. Handguns must be in a locked container. Properly packaged small arms ammunition for personal use may be transported in checked luggage. Amounts may vary depending on the airline.

I’m willing to bet the hassel avoided by not declaring the gun wasn’t worth it.