UPDATE: Judge sets trial start for James Everett Dutschke in ricin-letter case


ABERDEEN – A federal judge set a July 29 trial start for the Tupelo man accused of mailing poison-laden letters to President Obama, U.S. Sen. Roger Wicker and Lee County Justice Court Judge Sadie Holland.
Dutschke’s attorney, federal public defenders George Lucas, also invites prosecutors to discuss a plea deal for the former martial arts instructor, who insists he is innocent of the charges.
Defense attorneys typically seek a deal for lesser charges against their clients in exchange for a guilty plea to avoid going to trial.
In his June 10 letter to the U.S. Attorney’s Office, Lucas tells the government attorneys, though, that he “cannot ethically” advise Dutschke to waive his right to appeal a possible sentence or conviction, which is fairly standard in Northern District deals.
He asks them to omit any such language from any plea proposal.
“I do not believe a defendant can knowingly waive the right to challenge a sentence imposed illegally or in violation of law,” Lucas writes in a five-page letter requesting what’s called “discovery,” which is information unfavorable or favorable gathered thus far by investigators and about witnesses and grand jury testimony in the case.
Dutschke, 41, was arrested April 27 after investigators claim they discovered traces of the poison ricin in his former studio and on material they allege they saw him dump after a lengthy visit to the facility.
A federal grand jury indicted him May 31 on five counts associated with the letter scheme and threats against elected officials.
He faces up to life in prison if convicted on all charges.
The trial is scheduled in Aberdeen with Aycock to preside.
Judge Holland was the only official to actually open one of the letters, and she reportedly suffered no ill effects from it.
The letters reportedly were mailed April 8 from Tupelo. Two other similar schemes have been in the news recently from other locales, and last week, a Texas woman was arrested in connection with one of them.
• Read more in Tuesday’s Daily Journal.

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