By Patsy R. Brumfield/NEMS Daily Journal
OXFORD – Details of government claims remain sealed against J. Everett Dutschke, while the former Tupelo martial arts instructor waits in jail accused of plotting to make poison and a delivery system for it.
Dutschke, 41, of 344 S. Canal St., will learn more about prosecutors’ case against him Thursday at his preliminary hearing and detention hearing before U.S. Magistrate Judge S. Allan Alexander in Oxford.
The FBI accuses Dutschke of making “a biological agent” – in this case the poison ricin – and a delivery system “for use as a weapon,” or attempting or conspiring to do so.
Allegation details contained in an FBI affidavit are sealed from the public until Thursday. The document likely explains what the government claims Dutschke did, when and where.
FBI Special Agent Brandon Grant was at Monday’s initial hearing, although he did not do anything more than sit at the prosecution table. Grant was the government’s only witness against the government’s first suspect in a poison-letter plot, which became public April 17.
Dutschke faces up to life in prison, if convicted of the current charge against him contained in Section 18, Subsection 175(a) of the U.S. Code of Criminal Procedure.
Dutschke’s arrest about 12:50 a.m. Saturday at his home capped days of speculation about him after the government dismissed charges against its first suspect in a plot to make ricin and send poison-laden letters to President Barack Obama, U.S. Sen. Roger Wicker of Tupelo and Lee County Justice Court Judge Sadie Holland.
One week ago, the government was forced to admit it had no evidence against Paul Kevin Curtis of Corinth, who was arrested and jailed in the letter scheme.
Dutschke’s name first came up during a multiday hearing for Curtis, when Curtis’ attorney suggested someone else might have tried to blame her client.
During Monday’s hearing, the former Republican legislative candidate and Democratic candidate for Lee County election commissioner wore orange jail garb beside his public defender, George Lucas.
Dutschke was brought into the small courtroom with his ankles shackled and his hands cuffed.
As he silently read the complaint against him, he shook his head.
National news media continues to follow the story.
After Curtis’ release, he and his attorneys went on a whirlwind of network and cable TV interviews in New York City.
Back in Oxford for Dutschke’s proceedings are news wire services and regional TV networks, as well as CNN and Fox-News.
Alexander’s courtroom was jammed with news media Monday as she set the next hearing to begin at 9 a.m.
Thursday, she will consider whether the government has enough evidence against Dutschke to turn the case over to a grand jury, which issues formal charges called indictments.
If he is indicted, he will face formal charges, and then a schedule will be set leading toward a criminal trial.
Prosecutors Chad Lamar and John Marshall Alexander are handling the case for the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Oxford.
Agent Grant is a specialist in weapons of mass destruction.
Under cross-examination, he repeatedly admitted the government had no direct link between Curtis and ricin but said he believed Curtis was the one who mailed the letters.
Dutschke accused of:
Whoever knowingly develops, produces, stockpiles, transfers, acquires, retains, or possesses any biological agent, toxin, or delivery system for use as a weapon, or knowingly assists a foreign state or any organization to do so, or attempts, threatens, or conspires to do the same, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned for life or any term of years, or both.
* SOURCE: 18 U.S.C. 175(a)