Brown University News Bureau

The Brown University News Bureau

1998-1999 index

Distributed November 14, 1998
Contact: Mark Nickel

Brown University Graduate student arrested on charges of assault

A Brown University graduate student has been arrested by Providence Police on five felony charges. He is accused of providing two Brown students with radioactively contaminated food. Neither victim suffered a serious health problem. An investigation by Providence and Brown police is ongoing.

PROVIDENCE, R.I. -- Brown University officials have confirmed the arrest of a Brown graduate student on charges of assault, larceny and poisoning.

According to a Providence Police report, the arrested graduate student faces five felony charges: two counts of assault, two counts of poisoning, and larceny. The graduate student allegedly provided two Brown students with food which had been contaminated with radioactive iodine taken from a University laboratory. The iodine isotope is used in biomedical research.

None of the three Brown students involved - the arrested student and two victims - has suffered any serious health consequences. The victim who received the largest dose of radioactivity received the equivalent of a normal medical diagnostic procedure, according to radiation safety officials.

The contamination was discovered by the University's radiation safety officer during the routine safety protocol followed whenever radioactive substances are used in University laboratories. One of the victims, who works in the laboratory, tested positive for radiation. Subsequent investigation by Brown's Office of Risk Management discovered a dish of contaminated food in the victim's apartment. Her roommate also tested positive.

Risk Management tested the laboratory and found it free from contamination. The incident was reported to the Rhode Island Department of Health. Brown's Department of Police and Security Services and its Office of Risk Management are cooperating with the Providence Police Department in an ongoing investigation of the case.

"The University's first concern is for the safety and health of the students involved, and we are relieved that no one has suffered serious health consequences," said Laura Freid, executive vice president for Public Affairs and University Relations. "We are conducting daily tests to monitor the situation and we are providing the students with the support and accommodations they need.

"I would like to commend Steve Morin and Ninni Jacob in our Office of Risk Management for their outstanding work in detecting the problem and moving swiftly to find the source of contamination, and Col. Paul Verrecchia and Det. Bruce Holt of the Brown Police for their work with the Providence Police in effecting a prompt arrest in the case."