U.S. District Judge Reggie Walton said Tuesday he would begin fining Toni Locy of USA Today $500 per day, escalating to $5,000 per day, until she tells who identified former U.S. Army scientist Steven Hatfill as a possible suspect in the attacks that killed five people, USA Today reported Wednesday.
Walton said he would consider postponing the penalty to allow Locy to appeal.
Walton also delayed a decision on whether to hold former CBS reporter James Stewart in contempt for not disclosing his sources on the matter.
"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."
Lucy Dalglish, Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press executive director, said Walton's ruling was "the most disturbing" of all recent federal court sanctions on reporters refusing to name sources.
Locy, now a journalism professor at West Virginia University, said she spoke to several sources and doesn't remember which one linked Hatfill to the government inquiry.