Evidence paints picture of ricin poison plot

djournal-Legal-newsBy JB Clark

Daily Journal

OXFORD – James Everett Dutschke shook his head and whispered to his attorney Friday afternoon as Assistant U.S. Attorney Clay Joyner read the evidence against him.

Joyner claimed, had the case gone to trial, the evidence would tie Dutschke to a plot to implicate Paul Kevin Curtis in a ricin-laced letter writing campaign.

Dutschke emphatically objected when U.S. District Judge Sharion Aycock asked if the claims of his behavior and actions were true. “It is not at all true… This is the first time I’ve seen this document, ma’am,” he said.

After conferring for a few minutes with his attorney, Kenneth Coghlan, the two clarified a couple of points with which Dutschke disagreed. Aycock then asked if everything else was correct.

Dutschke sighed, paused and read back over the list.

“You’ll have to forgive me ma’am, I’m having a bit of a moral feedback here. I understand everything that he said and I understand that’s in his factual statement,” he said, placing the emphasis on the words “understand,” “he” and “his.”

Aycock addressed him again, saying the goal of the hearing was to make sure Dutschke understood the elements of the crime, the nature of the offense and the aspects of the plea proceeding.

Dutschke then, very cautiously, said he was “voluntarily entering this plea,” and understood in doing so “I am taking responsibility for everything that (Joyner) mentioned.”

He then proceeded to enter a plea of guilty for each of the four counts involved in manufacturing ricin and mailing it in the three letters.

The prosecution laid out a clearer picture of the course of events that brought Dutschke before the U.S. District Court.

The allegations:

• On April 16, letters addressed to President Barack Obama and Sen. Roger Wicker were uncovered at congressional and presidential mail-sorting facilities. The letters later tested positive for ricin.

• On April 17, authorities were notified Lee County Justice Court Judge Sadie Holland received an identical letter. All three letters bore a Memphis postmark of April 8.

• The U.S. Capitol Police asked Wicker’s staff about constituents with the initials “KC” and were told of Paul Kevin Curtis. On April 19, after finding the verbiage in the letters matched posts on Curtis’ Facebook page, his home was searched but no evidence of ricin production was found.

• Witnesses told the investigators of a long-standing feud between Curtis and Dutschke.

• On April 22, an FBI surveillance team observed Dutschke removing items from his former business, Tupelo Taekwondo Plus, placing them in a red 1993 Mercury Villager van and then dumping them in a public garbage bin down the road. The items included a coffee grinder (which could be used to grind castor beans in to ricin), a box of latex gloves and blue dust mask.

• In an FBI interview Dutschke said he hadn’t been to his former business since April 15. When confronted about his April 22 visit, he said he went to remove a mop bucket, two pails and a fire extinguisher. He denied throwing anything away.

• During a search of his home, a computer and printer were seized but investigators determined they were installed April 22.

• During an April 24 search of the Taekwondo dojo, swabs were taken from several surfaces and later tested positive for ricin.

• During a Jan. 18, 2013 arrest on fondling charges, Lee County Sheriff’s deputies seized a laptop, hard drive and USB drives. The drives showed on Dec. 31, 2012, someone used the computer to download “Standard Operating Procedure for Ricin.”

• Late in 2012, Dutschke used eBay and PayPal to purchase castor beans, a key ingredient in the manufacture of ricin.

• Dutschke purchased a new computer and printer on April 22.

• Prior to the purchase of the new computer a witness helped Dutschke load his old computer and printer in his van. The computer and printer were taken to the trailer of a family acquaintance with the instructions not to tell anyone.

• On May 2, the older computer and printer were found after a search warrant was executed on the trailer. Tests on the printer showed it was used to print the three identical letters.

• A witness told investigators after Dutschke’s January arrest Curtis devoted a large portion of his Facebook page to Dutschke’s legal trouble which included jokes about Dutschke being abused in prison.

jb.clark@journalinc.com