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FBI charges Massachusetts woman with Boston Children's Hospital bomb threat

The FBI said Thursday that an arrest has been made in connection with a bomb threat against Boston Children’s Hospital last month. 

Catherine Leavy of Westfield, Massachusetts, was arrested without incident and charged with one count of making a false bomb threat by telephone, according to charging documents filed in U.S. District Court for Massachusetts. She faces up to five years in prison.

FBI Special Agent Joseph R. Bonavolonta said at a news conference Thursday that the threat was one of “well over a dozen” against Boston Children’s Hospital. He said authorities are investigating others.

Boston Children’s Hospital had been subjected to “a sustained harassment campaign based on dissemination of information online” about trans health care at the hospital, Rachael Rollins, the U.S. attorney for Massachusetts, said at the news conference.

A caller to the hospital on Aug. 30 is alleged to have said: “There is a bomb on the way to the hospital. You better evacuate everybody, you sickos.” 

Several children’s hospitals, most notably Boston Children’s, have been the targets of a far-right harassment campaign for months, led by anti-trans influencers with millions of collective followers who have spread misinformation about the hospitals’ gender-affirming treatment for minors. The influencers have similarly waged anti-LGBTQ campaigns against schools and libraries that have been featured on conservative news programs. 

Police investigated another threat to Boston Children’s around 11:30 a.m. ET Friday, the second that merited a police response in less than two weeks.

In the last week, some of the same influencers began to express doubt that the bomb threat was real. On Wednesday, one of the primary drivers of the harassment campaign, Chaya Raichik of the influencer account LibsOfTikTok, tweeted an email response from Boston police saying the threat did not come through 911. “Many questions remain. Will any journalists investigate?” Raichik tweeted to her 1.3 million Twitter followers.

Raichik did not respond to a request for comment.

Boston Children’s Hospital said that its focus remains on its patients. “We will continue to focus on providing the highest quality care and work with local, state and federal law enforcement agencies — and our security and emergency response teams — to ensure the safety of all across our hospital,” hospital officials said in a statement Thursday night. “We stand firmly by our commitment to support transgender patients, their families and the LGBTQ+ community.” 

The FBI announcement comes a day after a California man pleaded guilty in the same court over threats to the offices of Merriam-Webster.

The dictionary publisher closed its offices in Springfield, Massachusetts, after the man, Jeremy David Hanson, sent the company a threat in October to “shoot up and bomb your offices for ying and creating fake definitions in order to pander to the tranny mafia.” The threat came shortly after the dictionary made changes to use gender-inclusive definitions of some words.

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