By JB Clark and Sarah Robinson/NEMS Daily Journal
TUPELO – Local and federal law enforcement vehicles flooded Canal Street to search the home of James Everett Dutschke on Tuesday afternoon for any clues that would point to his potential involvement in mailing a ricin-laced letter to the president and other officials.
Dutschke said FBI officials came to his home around 9:30 a.m. where he cooperated with their questioning and agreed to have his home searched.
His name was mentioned in the hearing Monday in federal court of Paul Kevin Curtis, who was suspected to have mailed the poisoned letters to President Barack Obama and U.S. Sen. Roger Wicker. Curtis’ attorney, Christi R. McCoy, suggested that he should be a suspect.
Charges against Curtis were dropped and he was released from jail Tuesday.
Dutschke said he had been in contact with the FBI since last week.
Agents from the FBI, U.S. Capitol Police, Mississippi National Guard’s 47th Civil Support Team, Lee County Sheriff’s Office and Tupelo Police Department arrived at Dutschke’s 344 South Canal Street residence in east Tupelo at 1:37 p.m.
Agents dressed in hazmat suits entered the home just before 3:45 p.m.
Before the search teams arrival, around 1 p.m., Dutschke came out of his home to say, “The FBI is in there right now, waiting for a search team. I’ve been talking to them for about two hours and cooperating with them for about a week.”
Laura Curtis, Kevin Curtis’ ex-wife, reported giving the FBI names of people who might have sent the letter in an attempt to frame her ex-husband.
Dutschke thinks the FBI’s interest in him may have been the result of his name being one mentioned by Laura Curtis. Dutschke denied having any involvement in writing the letters.
He said he knew Curtis but only had contact with him three times.
“Way back in the past, I met him at Barnhill’s Restaurant in the middle of the public, he accosted me about trying to print a story of his,” Dutschke said. “I told him no and kind of made fun of him a little bit.”
Dutschke said Curtis approached him again in an office building where they both worked, again asking Dutschke about printing a story he wrote.
Dutschke didn’t say what publication he was referring to.
“On a third occasion he posted a Mensa certificate online, and that Mensa certificate is a lie,” Dutschke said. “I called him out on that in an email confrontation and I’ve had no contact with him since that, June 1, 2010.”
Dutschke walked around his home as investigators were inside searching for clues to link him to the ricin letters. On multiple occasions he addressed the media to emphatically deny any involvement with the letters.
Neighbors along Canal Street and Martin Street sat outside and watched as agents blocked their street and searched their neighbor’s house.
Many said he kept to himself but none felt comfortable revealing their names.
Lori Nail Basham, an attorney who has represented Dutschke in previous criminal charges, said Dutschke is cooperating fully with the FBI and she is confused as to how someone could mention his name and end up with the FBI searching his residence.
This is not the first time Dutschke has come into question by law enforcement officials. Dutschke is currently out on $25,000 bond facing three state indictments that he fondled three females under the age of 16.
Dutschke operated Tupelo Tae Kwon Do Plus, a martial arts business in Tupelo. Noel McMichael, owner of Kinetic Kick in Tupelo, said Dutschke also was at one time an assistant instructor at his studio.
McMichael said he dismissed Dutschke because of “moral issues,” claiming that “he was conducting himself in a way, outside the school, that was not conducive to our school.” He said those issues did not involve minors.
Dutschke has twice run for public office in Northeast Mississippi. In 2007, he unsuccessfully challenged Democratic incumbent Steve Holland for a seat in the state House of Representatives as a Republican. In 2008, he lost a bid for Lee County election commissioner as a Democrat.