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Federal judge holds anthrax reporter in contempt for not revealing sources

[JURIST] US District Judge Reggie B. Walton of the District of Columbia on Friday held former USA Today reporter Toni Locy [profile] in contempt of court [opinion, PDF] and ordered her to personally pay a daily fine for continuing to violate an August 2007 order to testify [memorandum opinion, PDF; JURIST report] about government sources who provided information about former US Army germ-warfare researcher Dr. Steven J. Hatfill [Washington Post profile]. Walton had previously threatened [JURIST report] to hold Locy in contempt in February. He ruled Friday that the District Court's contempt citation and monetary sanction against Locy need not be stayed pending Locy's appeal to the DC Circuit and that the Court can legally preclude Locy from accepting reimbursement to pay the monetary sanction. Beginning Tuesday, Locy will be fined $500 a day; the fine will increase to $1000 a day after one week and then up to $5000 a day after two weeks. Walton also indicated in his ruling Friday that the District Court will not address whether former CBS reporter James Stewart will also face contempt charges for refusing to divulge his sources until after March 31.

Locy, who now holds the Shott Chair of Journalism 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 Stewart refused to comply with orders to reveal their sources, saying that Hatfill's own lawyer revealed his identity in connection with the investigation. 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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