Catherine Leavy has been arrested in connection to an August 2022 hoax bomb threat at Boston Children’s Hospital, authorities say. The suspect is facing federal charges, the FBI, U.S. Attorney for Massachusetts and Boston Police announced at a press conference on September 15. The 37-year-old Leavy is from Westfield, Massachusetts, officials said.
Massachusetts U.S. Attorney Rachael Rollins said the threat was called in by phone to the hospital’s switchboard. The caller told the operator who answered the call, according to Rollins, “There is a bomb on the way to the hospital. You better evacuate everybody. You sickos.” Rollins said there was an “immediate response” from authorities. No explosives were found after the Boston Police bomb squad responded, Rollins said.
Rollins said investigators obtained warrants and tracked the call to a T-Mobile phone owned by the suspect. The FBI said she was arrested at her home in Westfield “without incident.” At the press conference, authorities incorrectly identified her as Kathleen Leavy, and some reporters named her as Kathleen Levy, but court documents show her name is spelled Catherine Leavy. Westfield is in western Massachusetts, near Springfield, in Hampden County, about 100 miles west of Boston.
Rollins said Leavy was charged with one count of making a false telephonic bomb threat. Leavy, who faces up to 10 years in federal prison if convicted, appeared in court before a magistrate judge on September 15 and is being held in custody pending a detention hearing scheduled for noon on Friday, September 16, 2022, Rollins said.
Rollins called the threat “disturbing to say the least,” adding, “Bomb hoaxes cause fear, panic and a diversion of resources that have a real impact on our communities.” Rollins said she could not comment further on the motive.
It was not immediately clear if Leavy has hired an attorney who could comment on her behalf. Heavy will update this report as more information about Leavy is confirmed.
Here’s what you need to know about Catherine Leavy and the Boston Children’s Hospital bomb threat:
1. Catherine Leavy Admitted to Making the Threatening Call but Told the FBI She Didn’t Actually Plan on Bombing the Children’s Hospital, Court Documents Show
According to the affidavit filed in support of the criminal complaint that led to Leavy’s arrest, the FBI had the phone number used to make the bomb threat. T-Mobile told investigators the phone belonged to Leavy, according to the affidavit. The company also provided call records that confirmed the phone called Boston Children’s Hospital at the time of the threat, the FBI said in the affidavit.
FBI agents went to Leavy’s home in Westfield on September 15 and interviewed her, according to the affidavity. “Leavy initially denied knowing the location of her cellular telephone and denied making the threat to BCH on August 30, 2022,” the FBI wrote in the affidavit. “Agents continued to interview Leavy and played an audio recording of the August 30, 2022, phone call to BCH. Agents also told Leavy that phone records reflected that her phone was used to make the threat.”
The FBI added, “During the interview, Leavy expressed disapproval of BCH on multiple occasions. When agents further questioned her based on those beliefs, Leavy admitted that she called BCH on August 30, 2022, and made the threat. Leavy stated that she had no plan or intention to actually bomb BHC.” Leavy’s phone was seized from her bedroom, the FBI said.
According to a press release, “Law enforcement obtained subscriber and call detail records and location information for the phone number that called in the bomb threat. Records obtained allegedly indicated the phone number was subscribed in Leavy’s name and that it pinged off a cell tower nearby Leavy’s residence at the time the bomb threat was made.”
According to Boston Police, no explosives were found after the August 30 bomb threat at the children’s hospital. Streets around the hospital were closed for about two hours, the department said in a statement. The threat was received about 8 p.m., police said. The hospital received the threat and contacted police, according to officials. The Boston Police bomb squad responded to the scene, officials said in a statement. The hospital received an unspecified threat on September 9 that led to increased patrols in the area, according to WCVB.
2. Catherine Leavy Has Made More Than 200 Contributions to Former President Trump’s Campaign, MAGA PACs & Republican Causes Since 2016, FEC Records Show
Federal Election Commission records show Catherine M. Leavy of Westfield has made dozens of campaign contributions to former President Trump, the Republican party and MAGA PACs since 2016. Heavy confirmed the address listed in a Trump filing for the campaign contributor matches public records for the 37-year-old Leavy.
The most recent campaign contribution was $150 to Trump on August 12, 2020. Leavy also contributed to WinRed, the Trump Make America Great Again Commmittee and the Republican National Committee. The 237 contributions total in the thousands, records show.
In October 2020, Leavy shared a MassLive article on Twitter about Democrats trying to flip a Republican state senate seat in Massachusetts and replied, “He’s a pos he blows cocaine and steals money you guys have no clue.” She also responded to a tweet in October 2020 about the Biden-Harris campaign and wrote, “You want people to vote at 14 years old seriously wow.”
Leavy also tweeted to someone who posted about getting a flu vaccine, “Did you look at the ingredients in that flu shot.” On October 4, 2020, members of the LGTBQ community tried to take over #ProudBoys on Twitter after Trump refused to denounce the group during a debate against Biden, according to PinkNews. Leavy responded to that movement by tweeting, “Ok well as it goes for ANYONE DO YOUR THING BE YOU JUST DONT HURT ANYONE THAT GOES FOR EVERYONE AND EVERYTHING PDA IS NOT COOL HONESTLY NO MATTER WHO YOU ARE THATS MY OPINION THANKS #ProudBoys”
3. Leavy Lives With Her Family in Westfield & Tweeted About Her Parents Threatening to Have Her ‘Locked Up in an Insane Asylum’
Leavy posted about family members on Twitter, and Heavy used that information to confirm it belongs to the 37-year-old charged in connection to the threat. Leavy wrote in her Twitter bio, “I’m from Westfield, massachusetts I’m 35 and I love flowers and music my grandpa Edward Culity Leavy started Jen Coat Inc. here in Westfield, Massachusetts.”
Public records show Leavy lives with her parents and sister in Westfield. She tweeted in October 2020 in response to a tweet about how the pandeic has been tough on people with mental illness, “parents tried locking me up 3 times I’m an insane asylum cause the earth feels like it’s off axis.”
Leavy’s Facebook page shows she went to Westfield High School. She wrote in her Facebook bio, “chill down to earth but a little ball of energy live music flower gardens crafts chillen.” Leavy does not appear to have a prior criminal record in Massachusetts.
4. The Top FBI Agent in Boston Said the Children’s Hospital Has Received ‘Dozens of Hoax Threats,’ Adding ‘This Behavior Is Nothing Short of Reprehensible & It Needs to Stop Now’
FBI Boston Special-Agent-in-Charge Joseph Bonavolonta said at the press conference, “Today’s arrest should serve as a strong warning to others that making threats to others is not a prank. It is a federal crime. … Law enforcement must work all threats of violence as a top priority, because we never know if the subjects behind them are going to follow through with their actions. These threats put innocent people at risk, divert law enforcement from responding to actual emergencies, are costly to taxpayers and cost undue stress to victims and the community.”
Bonavolonta added, “In recent months, Boston Children’s Hospital has been the subject of sustained harassment related to the airing of grievances pertaining to services they provide to gender-diverse and transgender individuals and their families. This has caused a huge amount of angst, alarm and unnecessary expenditure of limited law enforcement resources. Specifically, the hospital has received dozens of hoax threats, including harassing phone calls and emails, individual death threats and threats of mass-casualty attacks. This behavior is nothing short of reprehensible, and it needs to stop now. The real victims in this case are the hospital’s patients. Children with rare diseases, complex conditions and those seeking emergency care who had to divert to other hospitals because of these hoax threats. Threatening the life of anyone who seeks any type of health service is a heinous act and will not be tolerated.”
The hospital has faced threats on social media after anti-LGBTQ misinformation was spread by right-wing influencers, including “LibsofTikTok,” about care provided to transgender children and teens, The Washington Post reported. Chaya Raichik, to whom the LibsofTikTok belongs, denied any responsibility for the threats, telling The Washington Post, “We 100 % condemn any acts/threats of violence.”
Prior to the bomb threat, Massachusetts U.S. Attorney Rachael Rollins issued a statement saying, “Today’s news about the alleged threats directed at Boston Children’s Hospital transgender health program is disturbing to say the least. Children deserve an opportunity to thrive and grow as their own authentic selves. Parents/guardians and health care providers who support them in that journey should be allowed to do so free of threats and harassment. I want to make it clear that the Department of Justice will ensure equal protection of transgender people under the law.”
Along with the bomb threat, Boston Children’s Hospital received “hostile internet activity, phone calls, and harassing emails including threats of violence toward our clinicians and staff,” the hospital said in a statement, adding, “We are deeply concerned by these attacks on our clinicians and staff fueled by misinformation and a lack of understanding and respect for our transgender community.”
After the bomb threat, Boston Children’s Hospital said in a new statement, “We are relieved no bomb was found and that employees and patients are safe. We remain vigilant in our efforts to battle the spread of false information about the hospital and our caregivers. We are committed to ensuring the hospital is a safe and secure place for all who work here and come here. We will provide additional information as we are able. … We moved swiftly to protect our patients and employees, and we are working with law enforcement and outside experts as they closely investigate this situation.”
In her press release from before the bomb threat, Rollins added, “As Attorney General Merrick Garland recently said, ‘At the Justice Department, we view confronting hate crimes as both our legal and our moral obligation.’ I have made confronting hate crimes a priority of my administration, establishing a unit dedicated to the investigation and prosecution of civil rights violations. We also have worked tirelessly to send a message to hate groups that the U.S. Attorney’s Office is open for business. Our newly established hotline, 1-83-END-H8-NOW has resulted in dozens of calls and we will continue to pursue all leads.”
Rollins added, “While free speech is indeed the cornerstone of our great nation, fear, intimidation and threats are not. I will not sit idly by and allow hate-based criminal activity to continue in our District.” Rollins said other threats involving the hospital remain under investigation, including the September 9 incident. The FBI said there have been more than a dozen threats to the hospital so far.
5. ‘LibsofTiktok’ Had Posted About Boston Children’s Hospital, Leading to Facebook Suspending the Right-Wing Social Media Influencer’s Account From Its Platform
The misinformation about trans health care for kids and threats against the hospital led Facebook to suspend “LibsofTikTok” from its platform, MassLive.com reported. “LibsofTikTok” is run by Chaya Raichik, a Brooklyn-based real estate agent who has amassed more than 1.3 million followers and appeared on Fox News with Tucker Carlson. Raichik and her page have quickly risen in prominence among right-wing media. Facebook reversed its decision to permanently suspended the account 24 hours after doing so.
“LibsofTikTok” shared a video on August 11 of a Boston Children’s Hospital doctor talking about “gender-affirming hysterectomies.” The children’s hospital said it does not perform gender-affirming hysterectomies and does not remove the sex organs of patients under age 18. The hospital said in a statement a patient with “persistent, well-documented, gender dysphoria” must be at least 18 and have a letter from a doctor recommending the surgery, according to The Boston Globe. Right-wing commentator Matt Walsh tweeted to his 1 million followers on August 11, “There needs to be an organized effort to fight back against the drugging and mutilating of children. There should be rallies outside of hospitals that butcher children. There should be marches on Washington with hundreds of thousands of people. I will try to get this ball rolling.”
Alejandra Caraballo, an instructor at the Harvard Law School’s Cyberlaw Clinic, told The Globe, “From a personal perspective, it is absolutely, morally disgusting and reprehensible that people are attacking a children’s hospital. They are borrowing the same pages from the antiabortion playbook,” which she said includes stalking, harassing and posting personal information (also known as doxxing) of individual medical providers, the newspaper reported. Caraballo added, “They don’t just go after the target. they try to isolate the people speaking out for them and try to quiet them down, too.”
After the bomb threat, Raichik told Jack Posobiec on the Human Events Daily podcast that the bomb threat was fake and suggested it was made by someone trying to frame her and her right-wing allies, according to Media Matters. She added that Seth Dillon, the CEO of the right-wing satire site Babylon Bee, had offered a $20,000 reward for information about the threat suspect:
So the idea that one of my followers would go and call in a bomb threat is ludicrous. I mean – it just – it doesn’t make any sense. I don’t believe that to be true. So we don’t believe it was one of my followers. It is probably a left-wing person trying to get me suspended. Regardless of who it is – If we’re right or wrong about that – the person should be found. I mean, if you place a bomb threat to a hospital, I mean, that’s a horrible thing to do. They should be found. They should be prosecuted. And we hope they are.
So, you know, Seth and I thought, you know, let’s help out Boston PD or whoever it is and offer a cash reward. Maybe someone will come forward and with information and we can catch the criminal who did this – not just that, but now another CEO of a media company actually came in and matched Seth’s offer, so it’s now a $40,000 cash reward for information leading to the caller.
Raichik added, “They all wrote in their articles about how, you know, this is a really awful thing to happen to a children’s hospital. So I was like, you know, for sure they would want to know about this cash reward, right? I mean, who wouldn’t? Right? Like, maybe they could help us spread the word about it and we could catch this person. I mean, that’s what I thought, at least. Because who wouldn’t want to be — who wouldn’t want to help catch a person who called in a bomb threat to a children’s hospital, right?”
Raichik, Walsh and other right-wingers also questioned whether a bomb threat had been made at all in the weeks after the hoax call. Chris Rufo, best-known for fueling Republican outrage against critical race theory and other social and cultural issues, initially said he was told by the Boston Police that they received no 911 call from Boston Children’s Hospital reporting the threat. But on September 15, after officials announced an arrest was made, Rufo tweeted, “Additionally, Boston Police Department is now telling me there *was* a 911 call from BCH to BPD, in contradiction to previous statements. … If the NBC News report is accurate and the FBI has apprehended the person who made the threat, that’s good news: threats of violence should be punished to the fullest extent of the law.”