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Virginia woman charged in Harford Community College bomb threat released on bail

Amara Leonard, of Virginia, is charged with hacking someone's email and sending a threat to Harford Community College, which caused the school to close Friday while police investigated.
Amara Leonard, of Virginia, is charged with hacking someone's email and sending a threat to Harford Community College, which caused the school to close Friday while police investigated. (Courtesy Harford County Sheriff's Office)

A Northern Virginia woman charged with issuing a bomb threat last week that forced Harford Community College to close for the day posted bail and was released Monday following a hearing in District Court.

Judge Kerwin Miller ordered Amara Mallory Leonard, 22, of Fairfax, have bail set at $20,000, with 10 percent of that amount acceptable for payment.

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Electronic court records indicated Leonard posted $2,000 bail Monday afternoon. She had been held in the Harford County Detention Center without bond after she turned herself in Saturday.

Leonard is accused of hacking into the email account of an HCC student with whom she had been in a romantic relationship, and using that account to send an email stating pipe bombs would be planted on campus.

The college’s main Bel Air campus was closed Friday after police were notified of the threat that morning, and Harford County Sheriff’s Office deputies along with officers from allied agencies searched the buildings.

Police found a person of interest, who turned out to be holder of the email account Leonard allegedly hacked. Leonard turned herself in the next day; she is charged with issuing a threat of mass violence, threatening arson, giving a false statement about a destructive device and disturbing school operations, according to online court records.

Leonard appeared for her hearing Monday afternoon via video link from the jail. Attorney Duke May spoke on her behalf — her parents were in court, but they did not give any statements during the hearing.

May stressed that Leonard does not have a criminal record, is pursuing a college degree in English, and he described her as a “very docile” person who has been treated for mental health issues starting when she was in kindergarten. He noted that she turned herself in, first with the Fairfax County Police and then Harford County authorities, immediately upon learning of the charges against her.

“She has a loving and supportive network,” May said of Leonard’s family.

He said Leonard is not capable of committing the acts she is alleged to have threatened to carry out, and that the entire incident stemmed from a “lovers’ quarrel.” May noted this was Leonard’s first romantic relationship.

The attorney asked Miller to order Leonard to be released to the custody of her parents, and that the family was willing to have her be detained at home in Virginia with electronic monitoring.

“I have been assured that they will comply 150 percent,” May said.

May portrayed the incident as a matter of words, something Assistant State’s Attorney Gabriella Vazzana took issue with during her argument.

“What’s concerning to the state is the words that were used," as well as their impact, said Vazzana, who noted that K-9 units had to be deployed to the HCC campus to search for pipe bombs.

Vazzana read the email that Leonard is alleged to have sent ― the defendant’s attorney broke in, telling Miller that “these are allegations,” but the prosecutor said the text of the email is part of those allegations. The judge allowed Vazzana to continue.

Vazzana read a message that included several profanities, angry statements about the quality of the sender’s life, frustrations about their education, even singling out one “damn b----- professor” who had failed them, plus how the sender had been seen as a school shooter in their youth and that now they should become that person allowing everyone at HCC to “see my retribution.”

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Vazzana recommended that the judge order Leonard held without bond.

“The charges are fairly serious, in the sense of the disruption and panic that it caused,” Miller said of Leonard’s alleged threat. The judge said he also took into account her lack of a criminal record as well as how the defendant has “zero ties to the community” in Harford County.

Miller ultimately set Leonard’s bail at $20,000, with 10 percent payment acceptable. He also ordered that she have no contact with her former boyfriend or anyone affiliated with the community college, and that she must stay away from the HCC campus.

Leonard also must stay off of social media and refrain from using a computer or cell phone, although she can use a land line phone, plus she must get her electronic home detention monitoring set up before being released from jail.

Leonard did not make any comments during the hearing, only answering the judge’s questions in a soft voice. Her father thanked the judge, and he approached Vazzana, shaking her hand and thanking her before leaving.

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