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Anthrax In Campus Lab

Fish in front of an artificial reef. (Cobiella piece)
A University of Connecticut student was charged Monday with keeping anthrax in a campus laboratory but authorities said he will not be prosecuted if he completes a pretrial diversion program.

Federal prosecutors charged Tomas Foral, 26, with possessing a biological agent, which carries a penalty of up to 10 years in prison. Foral did not return a message left at his West Hartford home.

Two vials containing anthrax-infected animal tissue from the 1960s were found in a Foral's freezer in the laboratory Nov. 27, five days after the fifth and final death from last fall's anthrax attacks. Foral had reportedly been told to destroy the samples, but kept them instead.

The FBI said the samples would have required additional processing to produce infectious spores, but the material was ordered destroyed and the lab building was checked for contamination.

Officials said they found no link between the vials and the Nov. 21 death of an elderly woman from inhalation anthrax in Oxford, Conn., about 70 miles away from the campus in Storrs. Authorities have speculated that Ottilie Lundgren's death might have been caused by mail that crossed paths with anthrax-laden envelopes sent to members of Congress and the media in Washington and New York.

The university has not taken action against Foral, and he is scheduled to receive his master's degree next year.

UConn spokeswoman Karen Grava said samples of anthrax are no longer kept at the university lab for research purposes.