Anthrax scare proves false; suspect’s charges reduced

LAS VEGAS (AP) — A man arrested in the anthrax scare was charged with new counts of violating probation and a lawyer for another suspect said Monday that prosecutors planned to drop the biological weapons charges against his client.
Larry Wayne Harris, 46, of Lancaster, Ohio, was scheduled to appear before a federal judge later Monday for a detention hearing and announcement from prosecutors on charges against him and another man.
Harris and William Leavitt Jr., 47, of Logandale were arrested last week in suburban Henderson, Nev., and charged with conspiracy to possess and possessing biological material for use as a weapon.
Weekend tests showed the material contained in glass vials seized from the men was actually a harmless anthrax vaccine for animals. Additional test results, released Monday, showed material seized from Harris’ Ohio home also was a safe vaccine.
Leavitt was released from jail over the weekend on his own recognizance. Attorney Kirby Wells said Monday the U.S. Attorney’s office has agreed to drop charges against Leavitt.
Although authorities refused to comment before the hearing, an FBI agent said in an affidavit filed in Ohio that the charges against Harris in the Nevada case probably would be reduced from possessing a biological weapon.
Like the possession charge, the charge of threatening to possess a biological agent is punishable by up to life in prison.
Last week at a Las Vegas hotel, Harris allegedly held up a vial and told a man that “a little vial like that could wipe out the city,” according to the FBI affidavit filed in Ohio.
The FBI affidavit filed in Las Vegas last Thursday quoted Harris as saying the actual vial Harris held, not one like it, had enough anthrax to wipe out the city.
Whatever the exact nature of the alleged threat, it provided one reason for federal authorities in Ohio to charge Harris on Monday with violating his probation for his 1995 conviction there on charges he illegally obtained the bubonic plague bacteria through the mail.
Harris violated at least three provisions of his 18-month probation, U.S. Attorney Sharon Zealey said Monday. He threatened to possess anthrax for use as a weapon, conducted bacteria experiments on his own and misrepresented himself in an unrelated case as being associated with the CIA, she said.