Just hours before she was due to start paying a fine of $500 a day for refusing to answer questions over stories she wrote five years ago about the American anthrax terror attacks, former USA Today reporter Toni Locy received a reprieve.
An appeals court suspended the sentence, at least until she can officially appeal it.
But for the new court order she would have been liable for increasing fines over the next three weeks – rising to $5,000 a day.
Stories that Locy wrote for USA Today included the suggestion that a former US Army scientist was a “person of interest” to the FBI agents investigating the terror attacks, which consisted of envelopes containing deadly anthrax powder mailed to various news organisations in the US and took five lives. Among them a former British journalist Robert Stevens, working on the picture desk of the US tabloid, The Sun.
The scientist she namedl, who was never charged, subsequently sued the Justice Dept.claiming his reputation had been ruined and demanding damages.
After the new ruling Locy, who now teaches journalism at a university in the US, said she was relieved. She feared the fines would bankrupt her.