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Judge: USAToday reporter in contempt, must personally pay fines

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By Michelle Malkin  •  March 7, 2008 10:08 PM

I noted two weeks ago that a federal judge had decided to hold a USAToday reporter in contempt of court for refusing to name sources who fingered former Army scientist Steven Hatfill as a possible suspect in the 2001 anthrax attacks that killed five people.

He had postponed imposing penalties pending an appeal by the reporter, Toni Locy. But tonight, via AP, the judge ordered Locy to start paying up:

A federal judge held a former USA Today reporter in contempt Friday for refusing to identify her sources for stories about a former Army scientist under scrutiny in the 2001 anthrax attacks.

U.S. District Judge Reggie B. Walton said Toni Locy must pay fines of up to $5,000 a day out of her own pocket as long as she continues to defy his order that she cooperate in scientist Steven J. Hatfill’s lawsuit against the government.

Hatfill accuses the Justice Department of violating his privacy by discussing the investigation with reporters.

Starting at midnight Tuesday, the fines will be $500 a day for the first week, $1,000 a day for the second week and $5,000 thereafter until she appears before him on April 3.

“To maximize the potential that Ms. Locy will ultimately comply with the court’s order … Ms. Locy is required to personally bear the responsibility of paying the fine the court imposed,” Walton wrote.

Locy “is precluded from accepting any monetary or other form of reimbursement,” the judge added.

Judge Walton said two weeks ago:

“I don’t like to hold anyone in contempt,” Walton said. “I fully appreciate the importance of a free press. On the other hand, the media has to be responsible.”

Looks like he meant every word.

A reminder of another statement he made:

“There’s not a scintilla of evidence to suggest Dr. Hatfill had anything to do with it,” the judge said, yet the public notoriety has “destroyed his life.”

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