KHOU 11/ youtube Dr. Hasan Gokal
A Texas physician fired for allegedly purloining a vial of the coveted COVID-19 vaccine learned Thursday he will now face criminal charges.
A statement from the Harris County District Attorney's Office confirms Dr. Hasan Gokal, 48, has been charged with theft by a public servant, and faces a year in prison if convicted.
The statement alleges that Gokal, a physician for more than two decades, took a vial of the COVID-19 vaccine containing nine doses.
He allegedly pocketed the vial on Dec. 29, 2020, while working at a county vaccination site at Lyndsay Lyons Park in Humble.
"A week later, he told a fellow Harris County Public Health employee, who then reported him to supervisors," reads the statement. "Mishandling vaccine can result in a loss of government funding to the county, according to Harris County Public Health, which first investigated the matter."
Gokal was dismissed from his position as soon as his alleged crime came to light.
"He 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," the statement quotes Harris County District Attorney Kim Ogg as saying. "What he did was illegal and he'll be held accountable under the law."
It was unclear Friday if the doctor had appeared in court to enter a plea to the charge. Efforts to reach him were unsuccessful.
KRIV spoke to Gokal's attorney, Paul Doyle, who insisted the nine pilfered doses did not go to waste — but would have.
"Dr. Gokal is a dedicated public servant who ensured that COVID-19 vaccine dosages that would have otherwise expired went into the arms of people who met the criteria for receiving it," Doyle told the station.
He did not say who received Gokal's allegedly stolen shots.
PEOPLE was unable to reach Doyle for comment on Friday.
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"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," Doyle added during his interview with KRIV. "We look forward to our day in court, to right this wrong."
Multiple large-scale studies have found that vaccines are safe. There is no scientific link between vaccines and autism, according to the Centers for Disease Control.
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