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Federal appeals court blocks contempt fine against anthrax reporter

[JURIST] The US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit on Tuesday granted [PDF text] a request [JURIST report] filed by former USA Today reporter Toni Locy [profile] to block a daily contempt of court fine while Locy appeals the district court decision to impose sanctions against her for refusing to disclose government sources who provided information about former US Army germ-warfare researcher Dr. Steven J. Hatfill [Washington Post profile]. In a ruling last week, US District Judge Reggie Walton found Locy in contempt of court [PDF text; JURIST report] and ordered that, beginning Tuesday, Locy pay a fine of $500 a day; the fine was due to increase to $1000 a day after one week and then up to $5000 a day after two weeks. Hatfill refused to delay the sanctions until Locy can file an appeal and also ruled that Locy cannot accept reimbursement for the monetary sanctions. The appeals court, however, ruled that monetary sanctions should be stayed while Locy pursues an appeal.

Locy, now a journalism professor at West Virginia University, has refused to cooperate in Hatfill's suit against the Department of Justice (DOJ) for its alleged violation of the US Privacy Act [text], arguing that the information Hatfill is seeking has not been demonstrated to be central to the lawsuit. Hatfill was identified as a "person of interest" in the investigations of the 2001 anthrax attacks [GWU backgrounder]. He contends that FBI and DOJ officials violated federal privacy laws [complaint, PDF; JURIST report] by providing personal information and information about the investigation to journalists. Locy and former CBS reporter James Stewart have refused to comply with orders to reveal their sources. Locy has said that she no longer has notes from her reports and that she cannot recall who gave her the information. Walton has not yet decided whether to hold Stewart in contempt. AP has more.

Editor's Note: Toni Locy served as a JURIST student staff member while pursuing her MSL at the University of Pittsburgh School of Law in 2006-07.

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