Dutschke recants: Guilty plea withdrawn at sentencing hearing

Thomas Wells | Buy at photos.djournal.com James Everett Dutschke is led into the United State Federal Building in Aberdeen by U.S. Marshals on Tuesday for what was supposed to be a sentencing hearing, but instead Dutschke withdrew his guilty plea.

Thomas Wells | Buy at photos.djournal.com
James Everett Dutschke is led into the United State Federal Building in Aberdeen by U.S. Marshals on Tuesday for what was supposed to be a sentencing hearing, but instead Dutschke withdrew his guilty plea.

By JB Clark

Daily Journal

ABERDEEN – Instead of going forward with a previously agreed upon 25-year-sentence for charges of sending poison-laced letters to the president and other elected officials, James Everett Dutschke, in the dramatic fashion he has become known for, on Tuesday derailed his sentencing hearing and withdrew his previous guilty plea.

Dutschke, 42, was charged April 27, 2013, with mailing ricin-laden letters to President Barack Obama, Sen. Roger Wicker and Lee County Justice Court Judge Sadie Holland earlier that month. He initially entered a plea of not guilty and then changed his plea to guilty in January.

It will now be up to U.S. District Judge Sharion Aycock whether to accept this latest change in plea. She made it clear to Dutschke that decision “is in the discretion of the court.”

Dutschke argued about many of the details in the presentencing report, contending his was not an act of terrorism and the intended poisoned-letter recipients weren’t victims, then read a prepared statement to Aycock and the court.

It told the story of his investigation and legal proceedings with a loosely veiled metaphor in which he was a Hall of Fame gymnastics instructor and Paul Kevin Curtis (the man originally charged in sending the letters and who Dustchke was later charged with framing) was a “Barney the purple dinosaur” impersonator.

Dutschke went on to talk about how he was a gardener and gardening was the only thing that could take his mind off of the allegations of fondling brought against him by some of his Taekwondo students in Lee County Circuit Court.

“Gardening is your distraction, it brings you closer to God,” he said, asking the judge to imagine herself in his loosely veiled metaphor. “You’re eager to clear your name and this provides distraction – each tiny sprout digging into the ground and stretching to the sun is like each of your students… There is no purpose more peaceful and nothing more sacred than that.”

In talking about gardening, Dutschke mentioned a castor fertilizer, which he claimed is a ricin protein made from the castor bean, but not ricin poison, saying, “You can’t have a victim of fertilizer.”

Dutschke said investigators found the ricin fertilizer, not ricin poison, and the charges against him are a part of a conspiracy between the FBI and U.S. Attorney’s Office.

To prove the contents of the letters weren’t poisonous, he said he would gladly eat them.

“Bring me the contents of the remaining two letters, I will dump the content onto a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and wash it down with a glass of chocolate milk,” he said. “We can solve this ridiculously absurd case here. If they are right, case closed, I’ll be dead and people can go on with their Kardashian-filled lives.”

Talks with lawyer

As Dutschke wound through his accusations of perjury and denial of the crimes he previously pleaded guilty to, Aycock told him to wrap things up within the next five minutes.

He offered a dramatic sigh and continued, “I don’t know if I can complete this in five minutes.”

He then issued demands, asking that his case be thrown out – saying it is the result of perjury – and asking for an investigation into the lies he accused the prosecutor and investigators of telling in open court, saying they played the judge like a “prom date bet.”

Aycock told Dustchke she was having trouble moving forward with sentencing and his previously signed plea agreement because he seemed to be recanting his admission of guilt. She ordered a 30-minute break in which he was to confer with his attorney and decide if he would reaffirm his guilt and receive his sentence or withdraw his guilty plea and plea agreement.

After the break, and another short recess in which Dutschke conferred with his attorney, Ken Coghlan, he mentioned the possibility of having his state fondling charges moved into federal court. Aycock assured him the transfer of courts would be impossible and advised he listen to Coghlan’s advice.

The court took another short break where Dutschke left to confer with Coghlan again. After the five-minute recess, Dutschke finally said he would withdraw his guilty plea.

Possible trial

The court must now consider if Dutschke’s motion to withdraw his plea will be accepted. If it is, a trial will likely follow in which Dutschke and the government will have an opportunity to present all of their evidence and call witnesses.

The previous plea agreement said the U.S. Attorney’s Office would ask for a 300-month sentence if he entered a guilty plea, instead of the possible life sentence the charges carry.

Dutschke also pleaded guilty to state fondling charges in exchange for a recommendation of a 300-month sentence, which would run alongside his federal sentence.

A representative of the Lee County District Attorney’s Office said the plea agreement for the fondling charges in Tupelo and Lee County still stands with Dutschke. Lee County Sheriff Jim Johnson said he will still be requesting the maximum sentence for the one count of sexual battery filed in Lee County.

At the end of the sentencing hearing, which became a change-of-plea hearing, Assistant U.S. Attorney Chad Lamar affirmed the government’s evidence supports its case and denied Dutschke’s allegations of perjury and false evidence.

“The defendant is mistaken – the mask did test positive for his DNA and we have not lied,” Lamar said. “But we’ll get to address this on another day.”

During the now-moot portion of the sentencing hearing in which the defense objected to some of the presentencing enhancements, it was reported the three letters Dutschke is accused of mailing and the subsequent investigation and precautionary measures cost various local, state and federal government organizations more than $600,000.

jb.clark@journalinc.com

  • Marla Lk

    James Everett Dutschke is willing to eat the contents of the last 2
    envelopes because he KNOWS they are not toxic – unless he was the one who sent
    them, how would he KNOW. At the same time insisting Kevin Curtis is the
    perpetrator, no less. Really? What an ass.
    Hello James? We are not forgetting the articles stating your computer had
    links on how to make ricin. Or you being seen throwing out evidence of ricin
    into a dumpster. The more you talk, the deeper you dig your own grave. Because
    YOU are GUILTY!

  • Marla Lk

    James Everett Dutschke describes Kevin as a, “Barney the dinosaur
    impersonator” while comparing himself to a “gymnastics instructor
    with Olympic experience.” Does he really think this is going to sway anyone’s
    opinion of what he has done, let alone change the evidence? Or is he trying to
    make us believe he has a distorted mental capacity? This is a desperate
    man, who was finally put to a STOP. No more molesting children. No more
    deceiving or framing others. The public is entitled to be safe from people like
    this. James Everett Dutschke must be held accountable for his heinous
    crimes.

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  • gary

    Dutschke is a moron. A firing squad would be a better sentence. Tomorrow morning!!!!!!!

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  • Renee W

    So.. let me get this straight. He says he did not send the letters, that was Curtis. But, he is willing to eat the contents of the letter, because he knows it is harmless? Exactly how does he know it is harmless, if he had nothing to do with it? Not only that, but he said that he was making fertilizer, and that mailing fertilizer isn’t against the law… so, does that mean he did mail it with the letters claiming to be Curtis? It seems to me that Dutschke is just digging himself deeper and deeper. His rantings make no sense.

    I would also like to point out that him comparing himself to an Olympic gymnast is laughable. He said that because of the fondling charges brought up against him. Well, let me tell you, there is no reason to touch a student in martial arts the way same way you would support or adjust a gymnast. They are two very different sports, and use none of the same movements.

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