A judge has dismissed criminal charges against Dr. Hasan Gokal, a Texas health official who was fired from his job last week after he was accused of stealing nine doses of the Moderna coronavirus vaccine from a damaged vial and giving them to his family and friends, his lawyers said. The District Attorney's office charged him with a misdemeanor charge of theft by a public servant. He could have potentially faced up to a year in jail and a $4,000 fine.
Harris County Judge Franklin Bynum threw out the case Monday, saying that he found no probable cause to charge Gokal with theft, he wrote in a sworn affidavit.
"There is no credible allegation in the affidavit that the defendant administered any vaccine doses with-out completing the required documentation," Judge Bynum wrote in his order dismissing the charge.
Bynum also added that the charges issued by prosecutors were "riddled with sloppiness and errors."
"In the number of words usually taken to describe an allegation of retail shoplifting, the State attempts, for the first time, to criminalize a doctor's documented administration of vaccine doses during a public health emergency," Bynum wrote. "The court emphatically rejects this attempted imposition of the criminal law on the professional decisions of a physician."
The 48-year-old who worked for Harris County Public Health was accused of taking the doses while working at the county vaccination site at Lyndsay Lyons Park in Houston on Dec. 29, ABC 13 reported. Gokal then reportedly administered the vaccine to nine people, including his wife, according to a complaint cited by CBS News.
Gokal insisted that he did nothing wrong –– arguing that he did not want the vaccine from the damaged vial to go wasted, his attorney, Paul Doyle, asserted Thursday.
Doyle said in a statement Monday that they plan to file a wrongful termination suit. Gokal was fired after accusations were made against him.
"We appreciate today’s outcome and will now transition our efforts toward a wrongful termination suit. As I stated publicly last week, an apology by Harris County Public Health and the Harris County District Attorney’s Office towards Dr. Gokal and his family will not be enough," his attorney, Paul Doyle, wrote in a statement to Inside Edition Digital on Monday. "The agency disparaged this good public servant’s name and took away his employment without cause. More must be done by those responsible to make this right."
"We also sincerely hope this incident doesn’t deter other frontline medical personnel from doing everything they can to make sure vaccines are not wasted."
The Harris County Public Health Department told Inside Edition Digital that they are "unable to comment at this time due to pending litigation."
Gokal had allegedly told a health department employee at the start of January that he "took a punctured vial" of the Moderna vaccine at the end of the day. The employee then reported him to supervisors.
District Attorney Kim Ogg wrote in a statement last week that Dr. Gokal "abused his position to place his friends and family in line in front of people who had gone through the lawful process to be there."
But Doyle, an attorney for Gokal, said his client was a "dedicated public servant" who worked to ensure even expired dosages did not go wasted.
"Harris County would have preferred Dr. Gokal let the vaccines go to waste and are attempting to disparage this man's reputation in the process to support this policy. We look forward to our day in court to right this wrong," Doyle wrote in a statement to Inside Edition Digital.
Harris County District Attorney Kim Ogg said: "What he did was illegal, and he'll be held accountable under the law," CBS News reported.
Gokal was fired following an internal investigation by the department. The health department claims that his actions could result in a loss of government funding. Gokal has reportedly practiced medicine for 21 years, nine of which he spent practicing in Texas. He is a member of the emergency response team, serving as an emergency room doctor, his lawyers said. Gokal was specifically a part of the COVID-19 response team.
"Investigation lacked due diligence," his attorneys said in a press conference Friday, adding that allegations made by an employee were untrue.
Gokal was a part of a team administering vaccines throughout the day, which his lawyers estimated about 250 vaccines were given that day. At the end of the day, Gokal was faced with punctured vials and "had to face what to do with it."
Gokal was told to "not waste" the doses. He then asked if the doses would be used in the next six-hours and Gokal was told "no" by supervisors, his lawyers said. He then asked individuals to whom he provides pro-bono medicine, including referrals from acquaintances, if they qualified for the vaccine. These people included a 93-year-old bed-bound woman, an 86-year-old woman, and a 40-year-old woman, his lawyers said.
"He was trying to find people who qualified with the goal of not wasting and throwing away the vaccine."
Gokal apparently stayed awake until 11:30 p.m., and with one dose and minutes left, he administered the vaccine to his wife who qualified for the medicine. "He had 15-30 minutes left to administer the dose," his lawyer said. "Or it was trash."
His lawyers argued that Gokal went "above and beyond" as a public servant.
The Harris County District Attorney's office did not respond to a request for comment Tuesday.