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Suspect in ricin-letter case ordered held without bail in Mississippi

April 29, 2013|By Michael Muskal

A karate instructor appeared in federal court in Mississippi and was ordered held on a charge that he produced the poison ricin and sent it in letters to President Obama and others.

Wearing an orange jumpsuit and with his hands shackled, James Everett Dutschke, 41, appeared in court and said he understood the charges against him, according to media reports from the courtroom in Oxford, Miss.

Federal Magistrate S. Allan Alexander ordered that Dutschke be held without bond pending a preliminary hearing on Thursday.

According to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the northern district of Mississippi, Dutschke, 41, of Tupelo, Miss., is 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, and with attempting, threatening and conspiring to do the same.”

If convicted, Dutschke faces a maximum sentence of life in prison, the prosecutor’s office said.

The letters, which tested positive for ricin, were sent on April 8 to Obama, Mississippi Sen. Roger Wicker and Mississippi Judge Sadie Holland, 80.

Dutschke was arrested on Saturday, at the end of a week when investigators originally focused on his rival Paul Kevin Curtis, 45, an Elvis impersonator.

Dutschke, who has ties to Curtis, the former suspect, Holland and Wicker, then became the focus of investigators.

Curtis and Dutschke have reportedly known each other for years. 

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.

“I'm a patriotic American," Dutschke told the Associated Press last week. "I don't have any grudges against anybody. … I did not send the letters.”

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