Dutschke charged over Obama ricin letters
Mississippi man accused of sending poison to president, then trying to frame another man, Kevin Curtis, for the crime
A man suspected of sending poison-laced letters to President Barack Obama and two other officials has been charged in a five-count federal indictment that could send him to prison for life if he’s convicted.
James Everett Dutschke, 41, is charged with developing, producing and stockpiling the poison ricin, threatening the president and others and attempting to impede the investigation. The indictment also alleges that Dutschke mailed the letter in part to retaliate against a rival, who briefly became a suspect in the investigation.
The indictment was made public on Monday, but it was dated May 31.
Arraignment is scheduled for Thursday in US district court in Oxford. Dutschke has been jailed without bond since his arrest.
Dutschke’s lawyer, George Lucas, told the Associated Press in an email his client would plead not guilty to each of the five charges.
Dutschke was arrested on April 27 at his home in Tupelo, Mississippi. He is suspected of mailing ricin-laced letters on April 8 to Obama, senator Roger Wicker and judge Sadie Holland. Dutschke has denied any involvement in the letters.
He is the second person to face charges in the case. The first, entertainer and Elvis impersonator Paul Kevin Curtis, 45, was arrested on April 17, but the charges were dropped six days later when the investigation shifted to Dutschke.
After his arrest, Curtis said he was framed and pointed investigators to Dutschke. The men had met years earlier while both worked for an insurance company owned by Curtis’s brother. Curtis said they had feuded over the years.
Count five of the indictment says Dutschke mailed the letters “to retaliate against and frame Kevin Curtis”.
The letters contained language that Curtis had often used on his Facebook page, including the line, “I am KC and I approve this message”. The letters also contained the phrase “Missing Pieces”, the title of an unpublished book Curtis wrote about his belief that there is a black market for body parts in the United States.
Dutschke briefly owned a small newspaper and the two had discussed publishing the book, but later had a falling out, Curtis has said.
Dutschke, a former martial arts instructor, has unsuccessfully run for public office, such as in 2007 when he challenged Democratic state representative Steve Holland, the son of the Mississippi judge who received one of the letters. That letter was the only one to make it to its intended recipient. The others were intercepted at mail sorting centers.
Authorities said a dust mask Dutschke removed from his former martial arts studio and dumped in a nearby trash can tested positive for ricin and the DNA of two people, including Dutschke. Authorities have not said who the other person was.
Authorities said Dutschke bought castor beans, from which ricin is derived, on the internet, and researched how to make the poison.
The FBI has not revealed details about how lethal the ricin was. A Senate official has said the ricin was not weaponised, meaning it was not in a form that could easily enter the body. If inhaled, ricin can cause respiratory failure, among other symptoms. No antidote exists.