Anthrax reporter seeks stay of contempt ruling for not revealing sources

[JURIST] Former USA Today reporter Toni Locy [profile] filed an emergency motion Monday seeking to block a district court ruling finding her in contempt of court [PDF text; JURIST report] for refusing to disclose government sources who provided information about former US Army germ-warfare researcher Dr. Steven J. Hatfill [Washington Post profile]. In his ruling Friday, US District Judge Reggie Walton ordered that, beginning Tuesday, Locy pay a fine of $500 a day; the fine will 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. In an emergency motion [PDF text] to the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit seeking a stay of Walton's order, Locy's lawyers called Walton's order "vastly overbroad" and said that Locy has asserted her constitutional right not to testify "in good faith."

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, saying that Hatfill's own lawyer revealed his identity in connection with the investigation. 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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