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Pitt Bomb Investigators Allegedly Targeted Transgender Student Who Defied Bathroom Policy

Posted: 04/16/2012 5:56 pm Updated: 04/16/2012 6:13 pm

Transgender Pitt Seamus Johnston Bombs Threat

A transgender couple subpoenaed last week to appear in federal court as persons of interest in the University of Pittsburgh's bomb investigation say that the school is unfairly targeting them because one of the pair was expelled from the system this year for standing up against discriminatory bathroom policies, the Pittsburgh Post Gazette reports.

Seamus Johnston, 22, and his wife Katherine Anne McCloskey, 55, were questioned last week in connection with the recent string of bomb threats at the University of Pittsburgh's main campus and subsequently served subpoenas to appear in front of a grand jury on Tuesday, the paper reported.

The pair believes they are being unfairly targeted as suspects in the bomb threat case because Johnston was recently expelled from the University of Pittsburgh-Johnstown, a branch of the Pittsburgh university system located 70 miles east of the main campus, where the couple were formerly students at separate times.

Johnston, a transgender man, told the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review that university officials repeatedly asked him not to use the men's bathroom. When he refused to do so, he was charged with indecent exposure and expelled from campus.

He filed a civil lawsuit against the university in addition to filing various complaints with human relations commissions, according to the paper. He is appealing his expulsion to Pitt Chancellor Mark A. Nordenberg while he awaits his trial on the indecent exposure charges.

McCloskey told the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review that neither she nor her husband knows anything about the recent string of bomb threats at the university's main campus, of which there have been over 100.

"We have absolutely nothing to do with (the threats), except for wanting the people who are making the threats caught and prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law," McCloskey said. "Whoever is doing this is a lunatic."

The couple said they believe university officials handed their names over to authorities as possible culprits in the bombs threats in retaliation for Johnston's legal activity, and have filed a complaint with the Pittsburgh city commission alleging discrimination, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

"I wasn't involved in any of these bomb threats. Personally, I feel the fact they continue to investigate me is nothing short of retaliatory on the university's part," Johnston told the Post-Gazette in a separate article. "I feel they are wasting valuable resources in finding whoever is responsible for threatening the safety of my friends at main campus."

Johnston said the couple initially refused to hand over their computers to the FBI because the machines contained personal information about members of the group Social Democrats USA, to which they both belong. But he said they are both prepared to surrender the computers when they appear in court on Tuesday in order to prove their innocence.

"I'm very afraid, but I'm as confident as any innocent person can be in this country," Johnston told the Tribune-Review.

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Filed by Jocelyn Richard  |