By Patsy R. Brumfield/NEMS Daily Journal
OXFORD – Kevin Curtis late Tuesday walked free of all criminal charges that he mailed at least three poison-laden letters to President Barack Obama, U.S. Sen. Roger Wicker and Lee County Justice Court Judge Sadie Holland.
“I thank my family, my friends and fans for their love and support,” said the 45-year-old Elvis tribute artist from Corinth as he, his brother and attorneys stood before a crowd of news media at the U.S. District Courthouse in Oxford.
One week ago today, Curtis was snatched up by federal agents, who continued to search for evidence that he committed the crimes.
Authorities claimed the letters, mailed April 8 from Tupelo, contained the deadly poison ricin, made from the castor bean.
“I thought they said ‘rice’,” Curtis said about when he was first questioned by the FBI. “I told them, ‘I don’t even eat rice.’”
In the midst of terrorism news from the Boston Marathon and a fertilizer plant explosion in Texas, his lead attorney, Christi R. McCoy of Oxford, said she understood why the federal government felt pressured to act quickly to solve the ricin-letter case.
But, she said, prosecutors did the right thing when they realized their mistake, released Curtis from six days in jail and dropped all charges.
“It was evident they had real problems with their evidence,” McCoy noted.
Her co-counsel, retired FBI agent Hal Neilson, said he believed Curtis was not responsible for the letter scheme.
As reporters craned to hear the speakers, FBI agents and other investigators combed the east Tupelo home of J. Everett Dutschke, with whom Curtis claimed long-running disputes.
On Monday, McCoy strongly suggested in court that Dutschke could have tried to frame Curtis with the letter scheme, but later Dutschke strongly denied any involvement.
Curtis contends he still doesn’t now why Dutschke allegedly became fixated on him and hounded him on various Internet social networking sites.
Just days after Curtis’ arrest, his brother, Jack, issued a statement of concern, saying Kevin suffered from bipolar disorder and refused to adequately take medication to control it through the years.
Bipolar disorder sufferers experience wide mood swings, from high highs to low lows.
Kevin Curtis was still talking to reporters at least another half hour or so after their lengthy news conference. He talked about his career difficulties and loss of employment after allegedly discovering a “refrigerator full of body parts” at North Mississippi Medical Center, his frequent incarcerations for various problems, his love for his children, his political activism and his passion for pro-life issues.
No one from the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Oxford made any public statement by the day’s end, other than dismissing the charges against Curtis.
He credited “divine intervention” with McCoy’s coming to his legal rescue.
In addition to the ricin-laced letters mailed to Obama, Wicker and Holland, U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid late Tuesday said a possible fourth letter was detected at a federal mail screening facility.
Curtis said he thanked Wicker “for his kind words” in the media and said he respected President Barack Obama.
“I love my country,” he said. “I would never do anything to pose a threat” to the president.
Curtis insists he wants his life “to get back to normal” and to resurrect his music career, which he claims was derailed by Dutschke.
McCoy told reporters she always believed in Curtis’ innocence.
“I knew last Thursday that Kevin had not done this,” she said.
Neilson said he “was surprised” that someone was arrested on such minimal evidence.” McCoy’s aggressive interrogation of FBI agent Brandon Grant, across a two-day court hearing, went straight to the heart of the government’s case. Time and again, she pressed Grant to say what direct evidence he and others had to link Curtis to the letter scheme.
Each time, Grant would say he didn’t have it or he didn’t know or that more investigation was needed.
“He was just doing his job,” McCoy said. “I can’t imagine the pressure coming down from Washington” amid all the other high-profile cases during what she termed “the week from hell.”
As for Curtis, he’s making plans for his family and to disconnect from the Internet.
“I have missed so many things with my children over the past 13 years,” he said. “I can’t get that time back.
“I wanted somebody to listen to me. Maybe some good can come of this.”