After Anthrax Scientist's Threats, Counselor Faced a Hard Choice
Sunday, August 10, 2008
On the morning of July 10, Jean C. Duley decided she had a phone call to make. She had agonized all night. Her counseling client, Bruce E. Ivins, had announced in a group therapy session the evening before that he was a suspect in the 2001 anthrax investigation and had a plan to kill his co-workers.
From her desk at Comprehensive Counseling Associates in Frederick, Duley called the Frederick Police Department to report Ivins's threats. The scientist was taken into custody that afternoon and placed in a psychiatric hospital. A day later, the FBI showed up at Duley's office for the first time.
"Everyone thinks I was complicit with the FBI," Duley said in an interview Friday. "The FBI didn't tell me anything."
After Ivins was released from the hospital two weeks later, Duley said, she was so frightened that she asked the FBI for protection. She said an agent basically told her that she was on her own.
"The agent said, 'We are going to be watching him, we can't be watching you,' " according to Duley. With no other alternative, she filed a petition for a restraining order on July 24, providing one of the first public documents that cited worries about Ivins's potential for violence. The scientist died July 29 in what was ruled a suicide.
Duley, 45, appeared exhausted and tearful Friday as she sat in the Towson, Md., office of her attorney, Kathleen Cahill, drinking 7-Eleven coffee, clutching tissue and telling her story for the first time. She would not discuss any aspect of her professional relationship with Ivins, citing patient confidentiality. Documents released by the FBI last week, in support of its case against Ivins in the deadly anthrax mailings of 2001, provide a timeline of his movements and the specific threats he made in Duley's therapy session.
Duley would discuss only the wrenching decision to override patient confidentiality and report Ivins to law enforcement, a move that brought her into a sprawling FBI investigation cloaked in secrecy and surveillance.
"I care about every single one of my clients," Duley said. "They are humans, no matter what they do. All I was trying to do was the right thing. I was just trying to do my job."
Duley is not a psychiatrist, a psychologist or even a social worker; in the highly stratified world of mental health, she is an addictions counselor who earns $20 an hour. She said she believed "100 percent" that Ivins was serious about his threats. Two days after she reported him to police, the FBI searched Ivins's house and seized, among other items, hundreds of rounds of ammunition, homemade body armor and a bulletproof vest, according to Justice Department documents.
Blond and slightly disheveled, a pack of Marlboro Golds in her purse, Duley said her job was the most important thing in her life and she lived for her clients. She described the cascading events that preceded and followed her court petition for a restraining order against the scientist.
After police took Ivins into custody, records show, he was brought to Frederick Memorial Hospital for evaluation and then to Sheppard Pratt, a psychiatric hospital in Baltimore. Duley said Ivins called from the hospital and left two voice mails on her work phone, at 4:25 a.m. and 4:28 a.m.
On July 23, Duley said, the FBI notified her that Ivins was being released from the hospital the next day. In a panic, she asked the FBI for protection, but the agent she spoke to suggested she petition for a restraining order. The next morning, on July 24, Duley and a lawyer went to the county courthouse in Fredrick to fill out a peace order petition.