A Houston doctor claims he was penalized for giving expired vaccine doses. He is now ready to fight back. Dr. Hasan Gokal was fired. Kim Ogg, Harris County District Attorney, charged Gokal with taking vaccine doses. A judge ruled that there wasn’t probable cause for Gokal to be charged in January. Ogg took the case before a grand jury. However, the grand jury decided not to indict Ogg. He was cleared of all charges.
CBS Mornings’ national correspondent David Begnaud reported that Gokal intends to sue Harris County Public Health District in the next 72 hour.
Gokal claims that he was treated differently because of his race and nationality when he was dismissed. While the story about Gokal’s firing and subsequent criminal prosecutions gained worldwide attention, the news of Gokal’s dismissal was not as significant and prominent when Gokal lost the criminal case the District Attorney had brought against him.
The lawsuit seeks damages of more than $1 million. It is based upon Dr. Gokal’s claims of “mental anguish”, economic loss, and loss of reputation. Begnaud was told by Gokal that Ogg first informed him that Ogg had been charged with theft as a public servant.
“Did you get a call from the DA? Begnaud asked.
“No,” Gokal responded.
“Have you heard from investigators? Begnaud followed.
” No,” Gokal stated.
On December 29, 2020, COVID-19 vaccines were just being rolled out nationally. Gokal, Harris County’s supervisor for the first public vaccination was present.
At night’s end, Gokal informed us that there was still one vial with 10 doses. They had to dispose of them within 6 hours or they would expire. I made a quick phone call to my immediate supervisor, and stated that I had a few more doses. “I’m going find people to give it to,” the supervisor said. Gokal said that he started calling people who I believed might know someone or have contacts who could benefit from the vaccine.
Zehra Ahmad was among the contacts Gokal made. Her mother, who has Parkinson’s disease and works in a doctor’s practice, lives with her. Gokal was defended by her.
“How can this be considered theft? Ahmed stated that he doesn’t believe this could be considered theft.
Gokal stated that he had just one dose remaining and it was less than an hour until the vaccine was due to expire. He gave the vaccinations to Maria, his wife who suffers from pulmonary sarcoidosis (an inflammatory disease in the lungs).
The next day he said he turned in all the paperwork for the 10 vaccines he gave out, and eight days after that, he said his human resources director said he wanted to see him. Begnaud was recalled what Gokal said.
“We were told that you had taken a vial of vaccine and given it to your family. So I was confused. Gokal said, “Oh, I know you did it. So we have to fire you.”
” I said, look, you were going to toss these, but I had people who would give them away,” he stated.
Gokal stated that the human resources director had said, “Well, there’s another part to it. You didn’t make it fair.”
Gokal responds, “Are your suggesting that there were insufficient Indian names within the group?” He pointed his finger and said, “Are you suggesting that there were too many Indian names in the group?’.” Gokal then recalled.
The investigation report from the district attorney’s offices stated that the HR Director claimed that they identified patients forms as belonging to individuals of the same country as Dr. Gokal. Two weeks after Gokal’s firing, the district attorney issued a press statement claiming Gokal had “abused his position” to “place his family and friends in line before people” and “disregarded County protocols.” Five days later, Kimberly Smith, the Assistant District Attorney, informed Gokal’s attorney via email that “not one written protocol at that point” and that there was no “waitlist.” “
Harris County judge Franklin Bynum looked over Gokal’s case and found no probable cause for him to be charged.
“Based upon the information that they gave me, they hadn’t proven theft but they also did it in an incomplete and sloppy manner,” Bynum stated to CBS News.
Gokal was cleared by the Texas medical board two months later. Ogg fought for justice and took her case to a grand jury four months later. The grand jury decided not to indict Gokal.
The DA’s spokesperson told CBS News that the grand jury had spoken and they greatly respected it. The spokesman for the DA said that the grand jury has spoken and it is appropriate that the DA participate in interviews due to the secrecy of the grand jury as well as the possibility of civil lawsuits involving the county. “
“It’s funny because she is always in front of the camera,” Paul Doyle, Gokal’s defense attorney said. Let’s say sorry. Okay? Ok? “
” This has been devastating and incredibly difficult. Gokal stated that there is no other way.
“Tell people why you did the things that you did,” Begnaud questioned Gokal.
I did what a doctor would do. That is, take resources from patients and give them to them, instead of throwing it away. It was frustrating,” he stated.
Gokal also vaccinated two other persons before COVID doses ran out. These were elderly 80 women who were in bed, and he visited their house to administer vaccines. He visited the house of another woman, whose infant is currently on a ventilator.
Begnaud was sent the following statement by Kim Ogg, her spokesperson: “The District Attorney’s Office is responsible for prosecuting state crimes in Harris County. Our intent in prosecuting all of the accused is to find justice and seek justice. Our protocol is evidence-based. This Defendant was charged with Theft of a Public Servant. The evidence came from statements and witnesses, as well as testimony of the accused. These were obtained both before and during his time at Harris County Health Dept. Although grand jury witnesses in Texas are prohibited from disclosing the details of grand jury proceedings, they can tell you what happened in an incident.
A magistrate found probable cause for believing that a crime was committed after charges were brought. After the case was transferred to Trial Court Judge Franklin Bynum did not find probable cause. Due to the dispute between the judges witnesses and evidence were presented to a grand jury of ordinary citizens, who didn’t indict. In such cases, this is the standard operating procedure. The grand jury in this instance declined to indict. Their decision is respected. We are proud of the fairness and effectiveness of our system. “
Editor’s Note: This story has been updated to include a statement from Harris County’s District Attorney Kim Ogg.