CENTRAL ISLIP, N.Y. – A New York woman being treated for an undisclosed mental condition was charged with calling in a false bomb threat to an Arizona airport because she did not want her mother and brother to fly on a commercial airliner near Sept. 11, federal authorities said Tuesday.
Mary Purcell, 37, of Lake Ronkonkoma, was released on $200,000 bond after an initial appearance in federal court on Long Island. She was arrested Monday night after authorities said she admitted making two telephone calls to Tucson International Airport on Saturday, the day before the 10th anniversary of the terror attacks in New York, at the Pentagon and in Pennsylvania.
Purcell is on state parole for a forgery conviction and has had other run-ins with law enforcement, Assistant U.S. Attorney John Durham said in court. Purcell declined to comment to reporters after her release.
Magistrate Judge Arlene Lindsay told Purcell that she must continue once-a-week visits to a therapist for "mental health treatment" and that she is subject to random drug testing while she awaits trial. She did not enter a plea during a brief appearance in court, and no new date was immediately set for her return. Randi Chavis, a federal public defender who represented her at the proceeding, declined to comment.
Durham also declined to comment afterward.
A four-page criminal complaint unsealed Tuesday alleges Purcell phoned the airport twice on Saturday morning, claiming she overheard her boyfriend and several others discussing a bomb plot targeting Southwest Airlines Flight 2475. The threat led authorities at the airport to remove luggage from the plane and conduct a search, including re-screening all passengers. No bomb was found.
The woman's mother and brother, who were aboard the plane, arrived safely with the other passengers in New York, following a stop in Baltimore. The woman and her son appeared in court and put up their Lake Ronkonkoma home, which they share with Purcell, to secure her release on bond. They also declined to speak with reporters leaving the courthouse; it was not clear when they learned of Purcell's alleged threat.
The complaint cites an FBI agent who questioned Purcell on Saturday evening. After initially denying she made the threat, Purcell admitted later that she called authorities in Arizona claiming there was a bomb. "She had made up the story because she did not want her mother and brother flying around the anniversary of the Sept. 11th terrorist attacks," the complaint said.
Durham said Purcell had two felony convictions on her record, including one in 2009 for forgery. He did not disclose details of that, or the other conviction. He noted, however, that Purcell had been the subject of a number of warrants for failure to appear in court for her prior cases.
Lindsay told Purcell that if she were to miss any future court dates, the home would be subject to forfeiture proceedings. The judge also restricted her travel to Long Island, Brooklyn, Queens and Staten Island, and barred her from applying for a U.S. passport.
A call to Dallas-based Southwest Airlines was not immediately returned.
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