Couple threatened with contempt in Pitt bomb threats

Called before a federal grand jury in relation to the string of bomb threats at Pitt, Seamus Johnston and Katherine Anne McCloskey were threatened with contempt after they tusseled with authorities over whether they would provide handwriting samples, fingerprints and other material sought by prosecutors and FBI agents.

The Johnstown couple were served with a subpoena last week in connection to the series of bomb threats at the University of Pittsburgh over the past several weeks and appeared in the federal court building Downtown this morning. They said they would not provide the handwriting samples and fingerprints requested without seeing a warrant.

About 2 p.m. Mr. Johnston was called before U.S. District Judge Nora Barry Fischer. The judge held a closed-door hearing, Mr. Johnston told reporters, and advised him that she would seek court-appointed counsel to represent him at a hearing to show cause as to why he shouldn't be charged with contempt of court. He said she ordered him to submit a handwriting sample and fingerprints.

Mr. Johnston said he wasn't allowed to look at an order the judge signed at the hearing, nor at any affidavit of probable cause that a crime had been committed.

"The probable cause and the motion itself are under seal," Mr. Johnston said. "She ruled that I am supposed to do something and I am not even allowed to see the order," he said.

He said he had not refused to provide anything the government had asked for, but had merely asked to see a warrant. "The prosecutor said that I had refused," he said. "When it was time for rebuttal, I said that was not true."

He said he wants to testify before the grand jury, but has been denied that opportunity, except for a brief appearance this morning.

Ms. McCloskey emerged from an hour-long hearing before Judge Fischer and said that she had agreed on behalf of both her and Mr. Johnston to provide fingerprints and writing samples, in return for assurances that they would not be charged with contempt of court.

Ms. McCloskey said the couple had spent the morning "waiting for the judge to issue a warrant and an affidavit of probable cause."

She said that she and Mr. Johnston had brought computers with them, at the FBI's request, but had not yet been asked to turn them over. "They seem to have no interest in the computers at all," Ms. McCloskey said.

Mr. Johnston is a former Pitt student who was born female, but identifies as male. He and Pitt are engaged in a long-running dispute, which has manifested itself in civil and criminal cases and a Monday filing with the city of Pittsburgh's Human Relations Commission, over Mr. Johnston's locker room use at Pitt's Johnstown campus.

The Johnstown couple say they have no involvement with the bomb threats.

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Rich Lord: or 412-263-1542 First Published April 17, 2012 9:45 PM


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