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Ricin Scare in Washington, D.C.

Letters tainted with the chemical ricin were found in Washington, D.C. They were addressed to a Senator and the President.

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ricin-arrestTUPELO, Mississippi (CNN)-

A Tupelo, Mississippi, man accused of sending ricin-tainted letters to President Barack Obama and others is expected to appear in court on Monday.

James Everett Dutschke, 41, is scheduled to appear in U.S. District Court in Oxford before Magistrate Judge S. Allan Alexander, according to a statement released by the U.S. attorney in the Northern District of Mississippi.

It’s not clear exactly when on Monday he will appear. Dutschke’s attorney, Lori Basham, could not immediately be reached for comment Sunday night.

Dutschke has been charged with possession and use of a biological agent as a weapon in connection with an investigation into the letters sent to Obama, Sen. Roger Wicker, R-Mississippi, and Sadie Holland, a judge in Lee County.

Ricin is a deadly toxin derived from castor beans that has no known antidote. No illnesses were reported.

Last week, agents searched Dutschke’s residence and former martial arts studio.

At the time, Dutschke told CNN affiliate WMC-TV that he agreed to the FBI search “to help clear my name.”

“I had absolutely nothing to do with those letters,” he said.

Dutschke was arrested without incident at his home early Saturday.

His arrest was the latest twist in the bizarre case that began earlier this month when federal investigators arrested Paul Kevin Curtis, an Elvis impersonator from Corinth, Mississippi, for allegedly sending the ricin-laced letters.

Amid his claims that he was framed, Curtis was later cleared.

“I’m just glad it’s over,” he told CNN on Sunday. He said when he heard the news that Dutschke had been arrested, he took a deep breath and felt like “a weight had been taken off.”

“I just want to return to my kids and my music,” Curtis said.

He and Dutschke have various ties, and each has accused the other of bad behavior.

Dutschke used to work for Curtis’ brother at an insurance company, under the direction of Curtis’ ex-wife, according to Curtis.

Curtis has said that while Dutschke worked for his brother, the two talked about collaborating on the publication of a book but later had a falling out.

He has accused Dutschke of stalking him online, a claim the former tae kwon do instructor has denied.

Dutschke told reporters last week that he did not know Curtis well.

“He’s just a little nutty. I don’t have a relationship with him,” he said.

Authorities have not said how they linked the letters to Dutschke, who appears to have personal connections to at least two of the three people who were sent letters.

In 2007, Dutschke failed in his bid as a Republican to defeat Democratic state representative Steve Holland, whose mother, a judge, received one of the ricin-tainted letters.

Dutschke also has said he met Wicker.

Meanwhile, he faces molestation charges in an unrelated case.

According to a grand jury indictment handed up this month and obtained by CNN, Dutschke is accused of molesting three girls under the age of 16. He has repeatedly denied the charges in interviews with local media and pleaded not guilty in court this month.

Dutschke closed his tae kwon do studio after the allegations were made public.

Rich Phillips and Alina Machado reported from Booneville, Mississippi; Dana Ford wrote from Atlanta. CNN’s Vivian Kuo and Chelsea J. Carter contributed to this report.

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After nearly a week in federal custody, a Mississippi man accused of sending toxin-laced letters to officials has been released.

Hazmat Truck Sits Outside of MD Mail Sorting Facility After Deadling Ricin Envelope Intercepted

A Prince George’s County hazmat trucks sits in the driveway of a mail sorting facility in Hyattsville, MD, April 16, 2013. An envelope that tested positive for the deadly poison ricin was intercepted Tuesday afternoon at the U.S. Capitol’s secret off-site mail warehouse (believed to be this one), April 16, 2012.
Courtesy: CNN

WASHINGTON (CNN)-

Charges against the Mississippi man accused of sending ricin-tainted letters to President Barack Obama and other officials were dropped Tuesday, U.S. Attorney Felicia Adams said, citing “new information” that has been uncovered.

Authorities now are investigating whether someone may have tried to falsely implicate Paul Kevin Curtis, according to a law enforcement source, speaking to CNN on condition of anonymity.

Curtis said he wants to “get back to being normal” after being falsely accused.

“This past week has been a nightmare for myself and my family,” he said. “My mother has suffered as well as my children.”

Curtis, an Elvis impersonator from Corinth, Mississippi, was arrested April 17 and charged with sending a threat to the president last week after letters containing the poison triggered security scares around Washington.

Curtis’ attorney, Christi McCoy, said her client has been framed by someone who used several phrases Curtis likes to use on social media.

The letters read, in part: “To see a wrong and not expose it, is to become a silent partner to its continuance.”

They were signed “I am KC and I approve this message,” a source told CNN.

They each had a Memphis, Tennessee, postmark and no return address.

McCoy said she was sure someone else was to blame.

“I do believe that someone who was familiar and is familiar with Kevin just simply took his personal information and did this to him,” McCoy said. “It is absolutely horrific that someone would do this.”

Curtis had been accused of sending letters containing “a suspicious granular substance” to Obama; Sen. Roger Wicker, R-Mississippi; and Sadie Holland, a Justice Court judge in Lee County, Mississippi. The FBI said the substance tested positive for ricin, a toxin derived from castor beans that has no known antidote.

The FBI said no illnesses had been found as a result of exposure to the toxin.

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Hazmat Truck Sits Outside of MD Mail Sorting Facility After Deadling Ricin Envelope Intercepted

A Prince George’s County hazmat trucks sits in the driveway of a mail sorting facility in Hyattsville, MD, April 16, 2013. An envelope that tested positive for the deadly poison ricin was intercepted Tuesday afternoon at the U.S. Capitol’s secret off-site mail warehouse (believed to be this one), April 16, 2012.
Courtesy: CNN

WASHINGTON, D.C. (CNN)-

Government laboratories are testing samples of a suspicious substance found in letters at off-site White House and Senate mailrooms after preliminary test results pointing to the deadly poison ricin rattled Washington, authorities said Wednesday.

White House mail handlers identified a “suspicious substance” Tuesday in a letter addressed to President Barack Obama that preliminarily tested positive for ricin, the FBI said. The same day, a similar letter addressed to Sen. Roger Wicker, R-Mississippi, tested positive for ricin — a toxin with no known antidote, officials said.

But the FBI said initial tests can be “inconsistent,” and the envelopes have been sent off for additional tests.

Meanwhile, Sen. Carl Levin, D-Michigan, says one of his home-state offices received a “suspicious-looking” letter and alerted authorities. “We do not know yet if the mail presented a threat,” said Levin, the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee.

Filters at a government mail-screening facility preliminarily tested positive for ricin Wednesday morning, an FBI statement said, and mail from that site is being tested.

Mail for members of Congress and the White House has been handled at off-site postal facilities since the 2001 anthrax attacks. But Capitol Police were checking out reports of suspicious packages or letters in two Senate office buildings and evacuated the first floor of one those buildings Wednesday afternoon.

Police questioned a man in the area who had a backpack containing sealed envelopes, but a federal law enforcement official told CNN that authorities do not believe the man was connected to the letters found Tuesday.

In a statement issued Wednesday, the FBI said it has no indication of a connection between the tainted letters and Monday’s bombings at the finish line of the Boston Marathon. But the discoveries further heightened security concerns at a time when Congress is considering politically volatile legislation to toughen gun laws and reform the immigration system.

“Monday’s attack in Boston reminded us that terrorism can still strike anywhere at any time,” Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell said Wednesday. “And as yesterday’s news of an attempt to send ricin to the Capitol reminds us, it is as important as ever to take the steps necessary to protect Americans from those who would do us harm.”

The letter sent to Wicker had a Memphis, Tennessee, postmark and no return address, Senate Sergeant-at-Arms Terrance Gainer wrote in an e-mail to senators and aides.

A laboratory in Maryland confirmed the presence of ricin on the letter addressed to Wicker after initial field tests also indicated the poison was present, according to Gainer. However, the FBI said additional testing was needed because field and preliminary tests produce inconsistent results.

“Only a full analysis performed at an accredited laboratory can determine the presence of a biological agent such as ricin,” according to the bureau. “Those tests are in the process of being conducted and generally take from 24 to 48 hours.”

In a statement late Tuesday, the U.S. Capitol Police said further tests would be conducted at the Army’s biomedical research laboratory at Fort Detrick, Maryland.

Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Missouri, told reporters after a briefing for lawmakers that a suspect has already been identified in the incident, but a knowledgeable source said no one was in custody Tuesday night.

Wicker has been assigned a protective detail, according to a law enforcement source.

Senators were told Tuesday that the mail facility would be temporarily shut down “to make sure they get everything squared away,” McCaskill said Tuesday afternoon.

“The bottom line is, the process we have in place worked,” she said, adding that members of Congress will be warning their home-state offices to look out for similar letters.

McConnell, R-Kentucky, also praised the postal workers and law enforcement officers for “preventing this threat before it even reached the Capitol.”

“They proved that the proactive measures we put in place do in fact work,” he said.

Ricin is a highly toxic substance derived from castor beans. As little as 500 micrograms — an amount the size of the head of a pin — can kill an adult. There is no specific test for exposure and no antidote once exposed.

It can be produced easily and cheaply, and authorities in several countries have investigated links between suspect extremists and ricin. But experts say it is more effective on individuals than as a weapon of mass destruction.

Ricin was used in the 1978 assassination of Bulgarian dissident Georgi Markov. The author, who had defected nine years earlier, was jabbed by the tip of an umbrella while waiting for a bus in London and died four days later.

A previous ricin scare hit the Capitol in 2004, when tests identified a letter in a Senate mailroom that served then-Majority Leader Bill Frist’s office. The discovery forced 16 employees to go through decontamination procedures, but no one reported any ill effects afterward, Frist said.

Wicker, 61, was first appointed by former Republican Gov. Haley Barbour to the U.S. Senate in December 2007 after the resignation of then-Sen. Trent Lott. He was then elected to the seat in 2008 and won re-election in 2012 to a second term.

Before joining the Senate, he was a U.S. representative in the House from 1995 to 2007. Before that, he served in the Mississippi Senate.

Mike Brooks, Dana Bash, Tom Cohen, Lisa Desjardins, Rachel Streitfeld and Matt Smith contributed to this report.

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CopLightsWASHINGTON (CNN)-

An envelope that tested positive for the deadly poison ricin was intercepted Tuesday afternoon at the U.S. Capitol’s off-site mail facility in Washington, congressional and law enforcement sources tell CNN.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said he was told the letter was addressed to the office of Sen. Roger Wicker, R-Mississippi. After the envelope tested positive in a first routine test, it was retested two more times, each time coming up positive, the law enforcement source said. The package was then sent to a Maryland lab for further testing.

Sen. Claire McCaskill told reporters after a briefing for lawmakers that a suspect has already been identified in the incident. Members will be warning their home-state offices to look out for similar letters, she said.

Wicker, the junior senator from Mississippi, has been assigned a protective detail, according to a law enforcement source.

Postal workers started handling mail at a site off Capitol Hill after the 2001 anthrax attacks that targeted then-Majority Leader Tom Daschle and Vermont Sen. Patrick Leahy, among others. Senators were told those offices would be temporarily shut down “to make sure they get everything squared away,” McCaskill, D-Missouri, said Tuesday afternoon.

“The bottom line is, the process we have in place worked,” she said.

A previous ricin scare hit the Capitol in 2004, when tests identified a letter in a Senate mailroom that served then-Majority Leader Bill Frist’s office. The discovery forced 16 employees to go through decontamination procedures, but no one reported any ill effects afterward, Frist said.

Ricin is a highly toxic substance derived from castor beans. As little as 500 micrograms — an amount the size of the head of a pin — can kill an adult. There is no specific test for exposure and no antidote once exposed.

It can be produced easily and cheaply, and authorities in several countries have investigated links between suspect extremists and ricin. But experts say it is more effective on individuals than as a weapon of mass destruction.

Ricin was used in the 1978 assassination of Bulgarian dissident Georgi Markov. The author, who had defected nine years earlier, was jabbed by the tip of an umbrella while waiting for a bus in London and died four days later.

Wicker, 61, was first appointed by former Republican Gov. Haley Barbour to the U.S. Senate in December 2007 after the resignation of then-Sen. Trent Lott. He was then elected to the seat in 2008 and won re-election in 2012 to a second term.

Before joining the Senate, he held elected office as a U.S. representative in the House from 1995 to 2007. Before that, he served in the Mississippi Senate.

By Mike Brooks and Dana Bash

CNN’s Rachel Streitfeld and Matt Smith contributed to this report.

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™ & ©2013 Cable News Network, Inc., a Time Warner Company. All rights reserved.

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