Former USA Today reporter Toni Locy is expected to appeal a federal judge’s order that she pay fines of up to $5,000 per day for failing to identify sources who named former Army scientist Steven Hatfill as a possible suspect in the 2001 anthrax attacks. U.S. District Judge Reggie Walton requires Locy – not her former employer or others – to pay the fines as long as she refuses to identify her sources. “This court appreciates the importance of the media’s ability to freely report the news in a democratic society like the United States,” Walton said. “But just as the First Amendment is a fundamental component of the American system, so too is the rule of law.”
Hatfill, publicly identified in 2002 by Attorney General John Ashcroft as a “person of interest” in the attacks that killed five people, has never been charged. USA Today editor Ken Paulson said of Walton’s ruling, “Surely the First Amendment guarantee of a free press means that reporters shouldn’t have to choose between principle and poverty.” Locy, now teaching journalism at West Virginia University, has said she spoke to a number of officials on an anonymous basis regarding the anthrax inquiry, but she cannot remember which sources provided information linking Hatfill to the government’s inquiry.