By Patsy R. Brumfield/NEMS Daily Journal
ABERDEEN – James Everett Dutschke, accused of sending three poison-laden letters to President Obama, Sen. Roger Wicker and Lee County Justice Court Judge Sadie Holland, is scheduled to go on trial July 29 in Aberdeen.
U.S. District Court Judge Sharion Aycock set the date, as well as other deadlines for legal activity associated with the case.
Dutschke, 41, a former Tupelo martial arts instructor, was indicted May 31 on five counts associated with the letter scheme. He waived a formal hearing and through his attorneys pleaded not guilty.
Before his arrest April 27, he insisted he had nothing to do with the case.
He remains in custody in the Lafayette County Detention Center.
Greg Park, a federal public defender and one of Dutschke’s attorneys, said Monday he isn’t sure if the trial will begin then because his office has other cases also set for trial that date.
Federal budget-cutting mandates have put Park’s office and other federal agencies under pressure, including staff furloughs.
Dutschke’s other public defender, George Lucas, on Monday invited prosecutors to discuss circumstances under which his client might avoid going to trial.
Defense attorneys typically seek a deal for lesser charges against their clients in exchange for a guilty plea.
In his June 10 letter to the U.S. Attorney’s Office, Lucas tells the government attorneys, though, that he “cannot ethically” advise Dutschke to waive his right to appeal a possible sentence or conviction, which is fairly standard in Northern District deals.
He asks them to omit any such language from any plea proposal.
“I do not believe a defendant can knowingly waive the right to challenge a sentence imposed illegally or in violation of law,” Lucas writes in a five-page letter requesting what’s called “discovery,” which is information unfavorable or favorable gathered thus far by investigators and about witnesses and grand jury testimony in the case.
Lucas also asks the government to reveal whether it will introduce any evidence of prior bad acts against Dutschke.
Dutschke, 41, was arrested April 27 after investigators claim they discovered traces of the poison ricin in his former studio and on material they allege they saw him dump after a lengthy visit to the facility.
A federal grand jury indicted him May 31 on five counts associated with the letter scheme and threats against elected officials.
He faces up to life in prison if convicted on all charges.
The trial is scheduled in Aberdeen with Aycock to preside.
Judge Holland was the only official to actually open one of the letters, and she reportedly suffered no ill effects from it.
The letters reportedly were mailed April 8 from Tupelo. Two other similar schemes have been in the news recently from other locales, and last week, a Texas woman was arrested in connection with one of them.