Mississippi man indicted in poisoned letters case

JACKSON, Miss. — A federal grand jury has indicted a Mississippi man suspected of sending poison-lac

JACKSON, Miss. — A federal grand jury has indicted a Mississippi man suspected of sending poison-laced letters to President Barack Obama and other officials, according to an indictment made public Monday.

The 5-count indictment charges 41-year-old James Everett Dutschke with developing, producing and stockpiling the poison ricin, threatening the president and others and attempting to impede the investigation.

If convicted on the charges, he could face life in prison and hundreds of thousands of dollars in fines.

Dutschke was arrested April 27 at his home in Tupelo. He is suspected of mailing ricin-laced letters on April 8 to Obama, U.S. Sen. Roger Wicker of Mississippi and Lee County Justice Court Judge Sadie Holland.

Dutschke has denied any involvement.

George Lucas, an attorney for Dutschke, said he had not yet seen the indictment and had no immediate comment.

Dutschke is the second person to face charges in the case.

Paul Kevin Curtis, a 45-year-old Elvis impersonator, was arrested on April 17, but the charges were dropped six days later.

Curtis said after his arrest that he believed he was framed. Curtis said he and Dutschke know each other and had feuded.

Dutschke, a former martial arts instructor, has unsuccessfully run for elective office, including a 2007 challenge of Holland’s son, Democratic state Rep. Steve Holland.

Authorities said a dust mask that 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 haven’t said who else’s DNA was on the mask, but an FBI agent testified during a preliminary hearing that most of the genetic material on it belonged to Dutschke.

Authorities said Dutschke used the Internet to make three purchases of castor beans, from which ricin is derived, 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 weaponized, meaning it wasn’t in a form that could easily enter the body. If inhaled, ricin can cause respiratory failure, among other symptoms. No antidote exists.

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