FBI seizes transgender couple's computers in Pitt bomb-threat investigation

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A Cambria County couple under scrutiny in the University of Pittsburgh bomb-threat investigation said today that FBI agents served them with a search warrant Wednesday night and seized a personal computer, a laptop computer, a cell phone, a computer router and CDs from their apartment.

Seamus Johnston, 22, said about eight agents arrived at the apartment in Jackson he shares with Katherine Anne McCloskey, 56, about 7:30 p.m. The agents had a search warrant but Mr. Johnston said he asked for an affidavit of probable cause linking the couple to the crime being investigated.

He said he was told he could not see it. The document is usually public once the search warrant has been served but is under court-ordered seal.

"Until I can look at the affidavit of probable cause and see for myself what evidence they have against us, I consider what happened simply an armed break-in," he said. "I have no idea when we'll get the stuff back and no idea why they took it."

There were two threats emailed today to Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reporters, causing the evacuations of 12 buildings on the Oakland campus. In all, there have been more than 40 threats, most of them emailed to reporters, causing more than 100 evacuations of Pitt buildings.

Mr. Johnston said among the agents there Wednesday were two who interviewed the transgender couple the preceding week, subsequently subpoenaed them to a federal grand jury and indicated they were being looked at because of the run-ins Mr. Johnston had with the University of Pittsburgh-Johnstown.

Mr. Johnston, who was born a woman but identifies as a man, was expelled from the university after being arrested for repeatedly using the men's locker room at UPJ despite being told not to do so.

Pitt had offered the junior computer science major use of a private locker room, which Mr. Johnston used for a time before informing the school he would resume using the men's facilities.

Mr. Johnston, who lost an appeal of his expulsion, plans to seek reinstatement from Pitt Chancellor Mark Nordenberg, the next step in the process.

He is awaiting trial on May 31 for three misdemeanor charges -- indecent exposure, defiant trespass and disorderly conduct -- which Pitt police filed in the campus incident.

This week, he filed a discrimination suit against Pitt with the Pittsburgh Commission on Human Relations.

He and Ms. McCloskey, who was born a male but identifies as a female, appeared Tuesday at the federal building for their subpoenaed grand jury appearance.

After refusing to provide fingerprints and writing examples unless presented with a warrant, being threatened with contempt of court and demanding to testify before the grand jury for longer than their brief separate appearances, the couple was ordered to appear for a hearing next Friday before U.S. District Judge Nora Barry Fischer.

Mr. Johnston said the couple had brought their computers to Pittsburgh for that hearing because the FBI agents told them they would have a warrant for them. But none was produced and the couple put their computer equipment back into their home -- until it was seized Wednesday night.

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Michael A. Fuoco: mfuoco@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1968.


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