U.S. drops charges against ricin letter suspect
TUPELO, Miss. — Charges were dropped on Tuesday against the Mississippi man accused of sending ricin-laced letters to President Obama and others, while authorities searched another man's home in connection with the case.
The surprising move was announced in a brief document filed in federal court in Oxford hours after Paul Kevin Curtis was released from custody. The charges were dismissed without prejudice, which means they could be reinstated if prosecutors so choose.
Attorneys for Curtis have suggested he was framed, and an FBI agent testified in court this week that no evidence of ricin was found in searches of his home. At a news conference, they declined to discuss whether they were told what information the government had uncovered.
“I respect President Obama,” Curtis said. “I love my country and would never do anything to pose a threat to him or any other U.S. official.”
Prosecutors couldn't be reached for comment.
In Tupelo, numerous law enforcement officers converged on the home of another Mississippi man, including some in hazmat suits.
Everett Dutschke said that the FBI was at his Tupelo home on Tuesday for the search connected to the mailing of poisoned letters to Obama, U.S. Sen. Roger Wicker of Mississippi and a state judge. Dutschke said his house was searched last week.
Dutschke has maintained his innocence and says he doesn't know anything about the ingredients for ricin. He said agents asked him about Curtis, whether Dutschke would take a lie detector test and if he had bought castor beans, which can be used to make the potent poison.
“I'm a patriotic American. I don't have any grudges against anybody. I did not send the letters,” said Dutschke, who hasn't been arrested or charged.
When charges were dropped against Curtis, he said: “I'm a little shocked.”
The events began when the third day of a preliminary and detention hearing was canceled without officials explaining the change. Within two hours, Curtis had been released, though it wasn't clear why at first.
Through his lawyers, Curtis has denied involvement in the letters.
“The searches are concluded, not one single shred of evidence was found to indicate Kevin could have done this,” Defense lawyer Christi McCoy told reporters after a hearing Monday.
McCoy said in court that someone may have framed Curtis. She questioned why Curtis would have signed the letters “I am KC and I approve this message,” a phrase he had used on his Facebook page.
Later, at the news conference, Curtis said the past week had been a nightmare for his family.
Referring to questioning by investigators, Curtis said: “I thought they said rice, and I said ‘I don't even eat rice.'” FBI Agent Brandon Grant said in court on Monday that searches last week of Curtis' vehicle and house in Corinth, Miss., found no ricin, ingredients for the poison, or devices used to make it. A search of Curtis' computers found no evidence he researched making ricin. Authorities produced no other physical evidence at the hearings tying Curtis to the letters.
Curtis was arrested last Wednesday at his house in Corinth, Miss. The first of the letters was found two days earlier.
Grant testified on Friday that authorities tried to track down the sender of the letters by using a list of Wicker's constituents with the initials KC, the same initials in the letters. Grant said the list was whittled from thousands to about 100 when investigators isolated the ones who lived in an area that would have a Memphis, Tenn., postmark, which includes many places in north Mississippi. He said Wicker's staff recognized Curtis as someone who had written the senator before.
The envelopes and stamps were self-adhesive, Grant said Monday, meaning they won't yield DNA evidence.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- A revolt is growing as more people refuse to pay back student loans
- Indiana officials try to quell backlash over religious freedom law
- Music festivals say ‘no’ to fans’ selfie sticks
- Girl, 10, killed in Youngstown blaze was linked to rape case
- FBI agent, 2 others sentenced in contractor kickback scheme in Utah
- Florida church bus crash kills 8
- Federal agents charged with plundering online drug bazaar Silk Road
- Supreme Court allows Obamacare’s Medicare costs board to stand
- Defense mounted in Boston bombing
- 2nd suicide in a month jolts Missouri GOP
- U.S. parks cope with aging visitor base