Mississippi man charged in ricin case
BRANDON, Mississippi (AP) — An ex-martial arts instructor made ricin and put the poison in letters to President Barack Obama and others, the FBI charged yesterday, days after dropping similar charges against an Elvis impersonator who insisted he had been framed.
The arrest of 41-year-old James Everett Dutschke early yesterday capped a week in which investigators initially zeroed in on a rival of Dutschke's, then decided they had the wrong man. The hunt for a suspect revealed tie after small-town tie between the two men and the 80-year-old county judge who, along with Obama and US Sen Roger Wicker of Mississippi, was among the targets of the letters.
Dutschke's house, business and vehicles in Tupelo were searched earlier in the week, often by crews in hazardous materials suits and he had been under surveillance.
Dutschke (pronounced DUHS'-kee) was charged with "knowingly developing, producing, stockpiling, transferring, acquiring, retaining and possessing a biological agent, toxin and delivery system, for use as a weapon, to wit: ricin." US attorney Felicia Adams and Daniel McMullen, the FBI agent in charge in Mississippi, made the announcement in a news release.
Dutschke's attorney, Lori Nail Basham, said she had no comment. Earlier this week she said that Dutschke was cooperating fully with investigators and Dutschke has insisted he had nothing to do with the letters. He was arrested about 12:50 am at his house in Tupelo and is expected in court tomorrow. He faces up to life in prison,
The letters, which tests showed were tainted with ricin, were sent on April 8 to Obama, Senator Wicker and Mississippi judge, Sadie Holland.
Wicker's spokesman Ryan Taylor said since the investigation was ongoing, the senator couldn't comment.
The first suspect fingered by the FBI was Paul Kevin Curtis, 45, an Elvis impersonator. He was arrested on April 17 at his Corinth, Miss, home, but the charges were dropped six days later and Curtis, who says he was framed, was released from jail.
The focus then turned to Dutschke, who has ties to the former suspect, the judge and the senator. Earlier in the week, as investigators searched his primary residence in Tupelo, Dutschke told The Associated Press, "I don't know how much more of this I can take".
"I'm a patriotic American. I don't have any grudges against anybody. ... I did
not send the letters," Dutschke said.
Curtis' attorney, Christi McCoy, said yesterday: "We are relieved but also saddened. This crime is nothing short of diabolical. I have seen a lot of meanness in the past two decades, but this stops me in my tracks."
Some of the language in the letters was similar to posts on Curtis' Facebook page and they were signed, "I am KC and I approve this message." Curtis' signoff online was often similar.
And Dutschke and Curtis were acquainted. Curtis said they had talked about possibly publishing a book on a conspiracy that Curtis insists he has uncovered to sell body parts on a black market. But he said they later had a feud.
Judge Holland also is a common link between the two men, and both
Holland was the presiding judge in a 2004 case in which Curtis was accused of assaulting a Tupelo attorney a year earlier. Holland sentenced him to six months in the county jail. He served only part of the sentence, according to his brother.
And Holland's family has had political skirmishes with Dutschke. Her son, Steve Holland, a Democratic state representative, said he thinks his mother's only other encounter with Dutschke was at a rally in the town of Verona in 2007, when Dutschke ran as a Republican against Steve Holland.
Holland said his mother confronted Dutschke after he made a derogatory speech about the Holland family. She demanded that he apologise, which Holland says he did.