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Westfield woman arrested for Boston Children’s Hospital bomb threat

“Healthcare providers who support and offer care to gender-diverse and transgender individuals, and their families, deserve to do so without fear.”

Boston Children's Hospital has been the subject of a “sustained harassment campaign” based on information being spread online regarding services offered by its Gender Multispecialty Service. Charles Krupa/Associated Press

Law enforcement officials announced Thursday that they made an arrest in connection with the bomb threat to Boston Children’s Hospital on Aug. 30. 

Catherine Leavy, of Westfield, was arrested Thursday for allegedly making the threat, which turned out to be a hoax, U.S. Attorney Rachael Rollins said at a press conference. The threat was made regarding services offered by the hospital’s Gender Multispecialty Service, Rollins said. 

This department, founded in 2007, provides “individualized, safe, and affirmative care to gender-diverse and transgender individuals and their families,” according to the hospital’s website. It was the first major program in the country to focus on gender-diverse and transgender adolescents and has since expanded to accommodate patients between the ages of 3 to 25. 

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On Aug. 30 at about 8 p.m., the hospital received a bomb threat via phone call. When an operator picked up the phone, a person told them that “there is a bomb on the way to the hospital, you better evacuate everybody, you sickos,” according to Rollins. 

The hospital, local, and federal authorities immediately took action. The area was placed on lockdown and a bomb squad was dispatched to the hospital. No explosives were found in the area, Rollins said. 

Investigators quickly identified a T-Mobile account connected to the call, she said, and determined that it belonged to Leavy. She was arrested at her home, and police recovered the phone allegedly used to make the threat. 

She faces one count of making a false telephonic bomb threat, and appeared before a judge Thursday afternoon. A detention hearing is scheduled for Friday at noon. Leavy is being held in the meantime, Rollins said. 

“This alleged conduct is disturbing to say the least,” Rollins said. “Bomb hoaxes cause fear, panic, and a diversion of resources that have real impact on our communities. The people that work at Children’s Hospital and the parents that bring their loved ones to Children’s Hospital are under enough stress.”

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The hospital has been the subject of a “sustained harassment campaign” based on information being spread online regarding the services offered by the Gender Multispecialty Service, Rollins said.

The hospital has received dozens of hoax threats, including harassing phone calls and emails, individual death threats, and threats of mass casualty attacks, said Joseph Bonavolonta, special agent in charge of the FBI’s Boston field office.

“Healthcare providers who support and offer care to gender-diverse and transgender individuals, and their families, deserve to do so without fear,” Rollins said. 

In August, before this hoax, the hospital said that it has been the target of hostile internet activity, phone calls, and other threats related to misinformation about the Gender Multispecialty Service. 

Last Friday, the hospital received another bomb threat.

The hospital said that the torrent of threats began after a right-wing Twitter account called Libs of TikTok shared a video from the hospital explaining hysterectomies, The Washington Post reported. The account frequently posts content regarding LGBTQ+ people, framing it in a way designed to spread misinformation and provoke outrage.

“The article and online attention that has followed was based on the incorrect statement that Boston Children’s performs hysterectomies on minors in connection with transgender care,” the hospital said in a statement in August. “For a hysterectomy performed as part of gender-affirming care, Boston Children’s requires a patient to be capable of consenting for themselves.”

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The hospital clarified that age 18 is the standard age of majority for medical decision-making, and that it does not perform hysterectomies as part of gender-affirming care on patients under the age of 18.

Libs of TikTok is run by a Brooklyn real estate agent named Chaya Raichik, the Post reported. Raichik’s content is often amplified by right-wing pundits like Laura Ingraham and Tucker Carlson.

“Today’s arrest should serve as a strong warning to others that making threats of violence is not a prank. It’s a federal crime, and can carry up to five years in a federal prison,” Bonavolonta said. “These threats put innocent people at risk, divert law enforcement from responding to actual emergencies, are costly to taxpayers, and cause undue stress to victims and the community.”

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