Thomas C. Butler
Dr. Thomas C. Butler, a preeminent authority on infectious diseases at Texas Tech University, was charged in early 2003 with allegedly smuggling samples of plague bacteria into the United States, improperly transporting them within the country, and lying about them to authorities. Additional charges of theft, embezzlement and fraud were added in a second indictment. If convicted of all charges, he would have faced life in prison and millions of dollars in fines.
Here at FAS we don't know what Dr. Butler did or why. But we share the concern of other independent observers that the government prosecuted this case in a manner grossly disproportionate to the offenses that were alleged. Dr. Butler is not a terrorist.
"It's of grave concern that in a free society, such an Alfred Hitchcockian situation could emerge," said Peter Agre, winner of the 2003 Nobel Prize in chemistry.
Donations in support of Dr. Butler's pro bono legal team, payable to the Thomas Butler Legal Defense Fund, may be sent to:
Daniel C. Schwartz, Esq
Bryan Cave LLP
700 Thirteenth Street, N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20005
Commerce Dept Notice on Alleged Export Violations by Thomas C. Butler, Federal Register, September 14, 2006.
Update May 2006: Dr. Butler's Petition for Certiorari, filed at the U.S. Supreme Court April 11, 2006 (case no. 05-1308), was denied by the Court on May 15, 2006.
Plagued By Fear, a special report on the Thomas Butler Case from the Cleveland Plain Dealer by John Mangels, March 26-April 1, 2006.
Security for whose sake? by William B. Greenough, III, Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, September/October 2005.
Destroying the Life and Career of a Valued Physician-Scientist Who Tried to Protect Us from Plague: Was It Really Necessary?, Clinical Infectious Diseases, June 1, 2005.
Open Letter Protesting the Treatment of Thomas C. Butler from colleagues and supporters, March 2005.
Update October 2004: Butler Gambles on Appeal, as reported in ScienceNow, October 19, 2004.
Update April 2004: An updated review and critique of the Butler case was offered by Texas Tech geologist Dr. Thomas M. Lehman.
Update March 2004: Dr. Butler was sentenced to two years in prison and more than $50,000 in fines.
Update February 2004: As a consequence of his conviction, Dr. Butler surrendered the medical license which authorized him to practice medicine in Texas.
Update December 2003: Thomas C. Butler was convicted December 1 on 47 of the 69 charges he faced, but was acquitted on charges of lying to the FBI, smuggling plague samples into the United States and illegally transporting samples. His attorneys say the guilty verdicts will be appealed.Other Expressions of Support:
- Further Critique of the Thomas Butler Case from Texas Tech Geologist Thomas M. Lehman, open letter, April 9, 2004
- Critique of the Thomas Butler Case, an open letter from Texas Tech geologist Thomas M. Lehmann, January 2004
- Letter from the President of the Infectious Diseases Society of America to Attorney General Ashcroft, November 13, 2003
- Statement by Nobel Laureates on the Butler Case, issued by Peter Agre, Sidney Altman, Robert Curl, and Torsten Wiesel, November 3, 2003
- Letter in defense of Butler from the Presidents of the National Academy of Sciences and Institute of Medicine to Attorney General John Ashcroft, August 15, 2003
- New York Academy of Sciences Issues Letter In Support of Accused Scientist Thomas Butler, September 21, 2003
- Scientist on Trial from ScienceNow
- Transcript of Sentencing Hearing (Excerpt), March 10, 2004
- USA v. Butler Docket Sheet, as of March 5, 2004
- Procedures on Public Behavior During Trial, court order, October 15, 2003
- Gag Order Prohibiting Extrajudicial Statements by Parties, Their Counsel and Agents, by order of the Court, September 12, 2003
- Superseding Indictment of Thomas C. Butler, U.S. District Court, Northern District of Texas, September 3, 2003
- Indictment of Thomas C. Butler, U.S. District Court, Northern District of Texas, April 10, 2003
- Criminal Complaint Against Thomas C. Butler, U.S. District Court, Northern District of Texas, January 15, 2003
News and Commentary on the Butler Case
- Butler Gambles on Appeal by David Malakoff, ScienceNow, October 19, 2004
- A poisonous kind of justice by Rose George, The Independent (UK), August 31, 2004
- Thomas Butler May Appeal by John Dudley Miller, The Scientist, March 25, 2004
- Butler gets 2 years in prison by John Dudley Miller, The Scientist, March 11, 2004
- Butler to resign professorship by John Dudley Miller, The Scientist, January 27, 2004
- Scientists: Government overzealous in pursuit of researcher by Betsy Blaney, Associated Press, December 3, 2003
- Butler Verdict Perplexes by John Dudley Miller, The Scientist, December 8, 2003
- Researchers Split on Plague Expert's Case by Kenneth Chang, New York Times, December 3, 2003
- Split Verdicts in Texas Trial of Professor and the Plague by Kenneth Chang, New York Times, December 2, 2003
- Thomas Butler Convicted by John Dudley Miller, The Scientist, December 2, 2003 [free reg. req'd]
- Treatment of ASM Member Thomas Butler, ASM News, American Society for Microbiology, December 2003 (Membership required)
- Chill on Scientific Research (editorial), Los Angeles Times, November 14, 2003
- A Career Ends and a Trial Begins Over Plague Vials: Texas Researcher Accused of Lying About Bacteria Samples by Lee Hockstader, Washington Post, November 9, 2003
- Prosecutors Lay Out Case Against Scientist in Plague Case by Kenneth Chang, New York Times, November 7, 2003
- US Crackdown on Bioterror is Backfiring by Debora MacKenzie, New Scientist, November 5, 2003
- Nobel Laureates declare support for Butler by John Dudley Miller, The Scientist, November 5, 2003
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- A Trying Time for Science by Charles Piller, Los Angeles Times, October 28, 2003
- The Thomas Butler Case: Some Unreported Information And Reasons for the Department of Justice's Prosecution from the Sunshine Project, October 28, 2003
- The Case Against Dr. Butler, CBS News "60 Minutes," October 19, 2003
- 30 Plague Vials Put Career on Line by Kenneth Chang, New York Times, October 19, 2003
- Mr. Butler and the Law (editorial), Washington Post, September 25, 2003
- More Support for Butler by John Dudley Miller, The Scientist, September 22, 2003
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- Plague Researcher Charged with New Crimes by Peg Brickley, The Scientist, September 4, 2003
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- The Polygraph and the Case of Dr. Thomas C. Butler, from AntiPolygraph.org
- Thomas C. Butler: Publications and Citations: A Bibliometric Analysis (MS Word file)