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Judge tosses theft charge against Texas doctor accused of stealing coronavirus vaccine

The judge said there was no probable cause to charge Hasan Gokal, whose lawyer said he was making sure doses didn’t go to waste.

File photo.
File photo.(Juan Figueroa / Staff Photographer)

A Harris County judge has thrown out a criminal case against a doctor accused of stealing nine doses of the coronavirus vaccine.

Judge Franklin Bynum wrote in his order Monday dismissing the case that there was no probable cause to charge Hasan Gokal with misdemeanor theft.

Gokal’s lawyer has said that his client, who was fired after an investigation by the county’s public-health department, was only making sure that the vaccine did not go to waste.

“He did everything he could, and used the best judgment he could, to make sure these vaccines were not wasted,” attorney Paul Doyle said at a news conference last week.

Doyle said that Gokal was working at a vaccination site in Humble when someone eligible for the vaccine drove up toward the end of the day. Gokal had to open a new vial of the Moderna vaccine to vaccinate that man, and the remaining doses in the vial would’ve gone bad in a few hours if they weren’t used.

After determining that there were no staff members or law enforcement at the site to immunize, Gokal texted friends to see if they knew people who were eligible, Doyle said.

Gokal administered doses to elderly women and people with underlying health conditions, and then gave the last dose to his wife — who has multiple underlying conditions — minutes before the doses were set to expire, according to Doyle. He completed the required documentation for the doses.

Harris County District Attorney Kim Ogg alleged in a statement that Gokal had “abused his position to place his friends and family in line” ahead of others, but the judge rejected what he called a novel theory that did not amount to theft from the county.

Furthermore, Bynum wrote, the affidavit alleging the crime was “riddled with sloppiness and errors” and the credibility of the statements in it were not established.

Doyle said in a statement Monday that apologies from the district attorney and health department would not be enough and that a wrongful-termination lawsuit was in the works.

“The agency disparaged this good public servant’s name and took away his employment without cause,” he said. “More must be done by those responsible to make this right.”

Tom Steele, Breaking News Producer. Tom has covered breaking news for The Dallas Morning News since 2016. He has worked in a number of other capacities for The News since 2007, and he was previously a copy editor at The Florida Times-Union in Jacksonville, Fla. He has degrees in journalism and economics from Lehigh University.

tsteele@dallasnews.com tomsteele
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