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Woman admits anthrax prank

| Saturday, Dec. 22, 2001, 12:00 p.m.

A Point Breeze woman who mailed a fake anthrax letter to her husband as a Halloween prank pleaded guilty Friday in federal court to threatening to use a weapon of mass destruction.

Jaime Lynn Reaser, 32, trembled as she faced U.S. District Court Judge Gary L. Lancaster and entered the plea with her husband, Jay Good, looking on.

"I made a horrific, horrible mistake," Reaser said.

Reaser left the courtroom clutching Good's arm and using a cane. The couple and their Downtown attorney, Efrem Grail, declined to comment.

Reaser, who told Lancaster she has a master's degree, mailed the letter to Mullen, a Strip District advertising company where Good is a top-level manager, according to testimony. Mailroom workers discovered the letter on the morning of Nov. 1 and became suspicious when they saw no return address and excessive postage on the letter.

The workers reported the letter to management, who took it to a conference room for further inspection. When the letter was tossed onto a table, white powder puffed out of the envelope.

The managers called 911 and several emergency crews responded, including the Pittsburgh police, fire, medics and a hazardous materials team, Assistant U.S. Attorney Nelson Cohen said. Investigators inspecting the envelope peered into it and saw the word anthrax typed on stationery.

Tests later revealed that no anthrax was present.

About an hour after the letter was discovered and the mailroom was quarantined, managers notified employees, several of whom became distraught and went home for the day, Cohen said.

As employees were being notified, Good returned to his office and called Reaser and asked her if she had sent the envelope. She admitted to mailing it, Cohen said.

After talking to Good, Reaser called the Pittsburgh police and admitted to the hoax, Cohen said.

Reaser reached a plea agreement with prosecutors that could bring a sentence of up to six months, or possibly probation, according to testimony. Lancaster could also order Reaser to pay restitution, which could include costs to the city for responding to the emergency and costs to the company for lost business and suffering, according to federal guidelines. The business was closed for several hours.

Reaser said she suffers from multiple sclerosis, and when she mailed the letter she was using a drug called Provigil, which may have impaired her thinking. Her doctor prescribed the drug, according to testimony. It is experimental in treating multiple sclerosis patients and is primarily prescribed for narcolepsy, a sleeping disorder, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

The drug is a stimulant and side effects can include headaches, infection, nausea, nervousness and insomnia, according to the FDA. It was approved for the treatment of narcolepsy in December 1998.

Lancaster released Reaser on $10,000 bond and scheduled sentencing for March 22.

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