By Patsy R. Brumfield
OXFORD – Six months ago, Elvis impersonator Kevin Curtis rejoiced before national media at his release on charges he sent poison-laden letters to President Barack Obama and two other elected officials.
Curtis was on a whirlwind tour of New York City interviews in the wake of someone else in the federal bull’s-eye as a potential suspect in the crimes.
What most folks don’t realize is that Curtis is still technically not clear of the brouhaha, which he insists hurt his personal and professional reputations, as well as wrecked his home and kept him locked up in federal custody for nearly a week last April.
When the U.S. Attorney’s Office advised the federal court it was dismissing the charges, it did not use the legal term “with prejudice,” which means the issue is over with finality.
No answers were forthcoming Wednesday from U.S. Attorney Felicia Adams, Criminal Division Chief John Marshall Alexander or Assistant U.S. Attorney Chad Lamar, who was the lead prosecutor against Curtis last spring.
“I just think that the case hasn’t been finally dismissed because they’d have to admit they made a mistake,” said Oxford’s Christi R. McCoy, who represents Curtis.
McCoy laughed at her own words, knowing that the history of the case showed to everyone watching that Curtis’ prosecution had been a mistake.
Curtis, 45, was arrested outside his home on Wednesday, April 17. McCoy met with him the next day and faced down efforts to order his psychological evaluation before the case could come to court.
“I knew they were stalling for time,” she said earlier this week.
McCoy and co-counsel Hal Neilson pushed prosecutors into court to prove they could connect Curtis to ricin, which was essential to supporting the legal theory of his guilt.
The state’s chief witness, a Jackson-based FBI agent specializing in terrorism issues, failed to produce any link between Curtis, the letters mailed to officials or to the poison ricin, although he insisted on the stand he was sure Curtis had perpetrated the crimes.
Across five more days and three court appearances, the government failed to show Curtis was the obvious suspect.
Ultimately, prosecutors ended the drama and had Curtis released.
At the government’s request, on April 23, Magistrate Judge S. Allan Alexander signed the government’s “order for dismissal,” which stated that U.S. Attorney Felicia Adams was dismissing the complaint against Curtis, “as the ongoing investigation has revealed new information.”
But she did so using the legal term “without prejudice,” which means the charges could come up again.
McCoy says she wants it done, over, finished.
Today, former Tupelo martial arts instructor J. Everett Dutschke reportedly sits in the same Lafayette County Detention Center cell that held Curtis for seven days.
Dutschke faces a federal indictment that he masterminded the ricin-letter scheme and attempted to frame Curtis for it out of revenge for a years-old feud.
His first trial date, set for Oct. 7, was delayed indefinitely by District Judge Sharion Aycock in Aberdeen.
Dutschke’s new attorney, Ken Coghlan of Oxford, said Wednesday that he has not received all information or evidence he’s due from the government, which has prompted a trial delay.
“My understanding is that the testing takes quite a bit of time to actually determine whether or not the substance at issue is actually ricin,” he said in an email. “The government has not concluded its testing so at this point it is premature to determine that the substance was ricin.”
McCoy, Neilson and Curtis also continue to wait on a response to an April 29 letter to Adams.
In the two-page message, McCoy demanded compensation to Curtis for a housing allowance and damages to his home by the FBI as it searched for evidence against him.