Man in anthrax hoax released on bail

Marc Keyser, accused of mailing dozens of hoax anthrax packages to media outlets across the country including the Observer, was released on bail Friday over the objections of a federal prosecutor.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Kimberly Mueller ordered Keyser released on a $25,000 unsecured bond signed by him, his sister and brother-in-law.

Mueller ordered Keyser, 66, to maintain a log of everything he mails and make the log available to a court officer upon request.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Benjamin Wagner scoffed at Keyser's claim he passionately wants to warn people of anthrax's danger and the ease with which it can be spread.

“I don't believe his motive is altruistic at all,” the prosecutor told Mueller. “I think he wants to draw enough attention to himself to generate traffic on his Web site so he can sell his book.

“I don't believe he cares that his actions instill terror in people.”

The investigation began after The Atlantic magazine received a letter Monday, FBI agent Steve Dupre said. The Observer received an envelope Tuesday. Media outlets in California, Washington state and Minnesota also have received the letters, as has a California congressman and a Sacramento McDonald's. Offices were briefly evacuated in some cases.

None of the packets has so far tested positive for hazardous material, the agency said.

The FBI said agents interviewed Keyser on Wednesday at his Sacramento apartment, at which time, court documents said, he admitted sending hoax anthrax packages to more than 120 addresses nationwide and turned over to them packages he was preparing to mail.

It took the agents four hours to draft a criminal complaint and get an arrest warrant. When they returned to the apartment, Keyser was assembling more addresses, packets of a white substance, and a CD of a book he wrote, and was preparing to resume his mass mailing campaign.

Keyser, a 66-year-old AIDS and education activist who has been the subject of previous law enforcement probes, was questioned in January 2007 and admitted sending a cylinder marked “anthrax” to the Sacramento News & Review because he wanted publicity for a novel he had written, a criminal complaint filed in U.S. District Court states.

He was not arrested in the case, but the court documents state that, after the new packages began appearing at media and other outlets nationwide this week, the FBI returned to Keyser's home Wednesday and he admitted that he had sent the packages.

Assistant Federal Defender Rachelle Barbour said Friday that Wagner's anticipation that Keyser would continue his mass mailing campaign if he gets out of jail “is to argue a series of eventualities that may or may not take place.”

“The FBI is assuring everybody it has found no danger,” Barbour said.