By Patsy R. Brumfield
OXFORD – J. Everett Dutschke will waive a court hearing for formal charges to be presented against him claiming he sent poison-laden letters to President Barack Obama and others, and he has pleaded not guilty.
U.S. Magistrate Judge S. Allan Alexander set an arraignment for Wednesday for the former Tupelo martial arts instructor, but late Monday his attorney, Ken Coghlan of Oxford, said Dutschke will waive the reading in court. Coghlan entered the not guilty plea in a court filing.
Dutschke, a 43-year-old former candidate for the Legislature, was first indicted by a federal grand jury last May on five counts that he masterminded the letter scheme to Obama, U.S. Sen. Roger Wicker of Tupelo and Lee County Justice Court Judge Sadie Holland, and tried to frame his arch rival, Corinth Elvis tribute artist Kevin Curtis.
Dutschke pleaded not guilty to those charges and faced a May trial date.
But the new indictment issued Nov. 20 added another charge, that while he was in jail, he sought to recruit someone else to obtain the poison ricin and mail it in another letter to Wicker. The letter was made to appear to be from Curtis, prosecutors claim.
If convicted, Dutschke would face up to life in prison. He remains in custody without bond in the Oxford-Lafayette Detention Center.
Also Monday, prosecutors gained another lawyer, David Andrew Sigler with the U.S. Department of Justice’s National Security Division. He also was assigned to the Curtis case before Curtis was released.
Curtis was the first suspect in the letter scheme last April and was held in federal custody nearly a week before the government admitted it could not connect him to ricin.
Investigators turned their attention to Dutschke after Curtis told them of their long-time animosity toward each other.
In a recent document to the court, the government said its investigation connects ricin and the letters to Dutschke.
Charges against Curtis have not been fully dismissed, the court docket indicates. The U.S. Attorney’s Office has declined to comment to the Daily Journal about why.