UPDATES: James Everett Dutschke arrested in ricin letters case, FBI says

By JB Clark, Robbie Ward and Sarah Robinson/NEMS Daily Journal


James Everett Dutschke whose home and business were searched as part of an investigation into poisoned letters sent to the president and others has been arrested in the case, according to the FBI. Breaking news updates below.

UPDATE: 2 p.m. – From the U.S. Attorney’s office …

DUTSCHKE CHARGED IN RICIN CASE

OXFORD, Miss. B Felicia C. Adams, United States Attorney for the Northern District of Mississippi, and Daniel McMullen, Special Agent in Charge of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) in Mississippi, announce:

James Everett Dutschke, age 41, of Tupelo, Mississippi, has been arrested on a Criminal Complaint charging him with knowingly developing, producing, stockpiling, transferring, acquiring, retaining and possessing a biological agent, toxin and delivery system, for use as a weapon, to wit: ricin, and with attempting, threatening and conspiring to do the same, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 175(a). If convicted on this charge, Dutschke faces maximum possible penalties of life imprisonment, a $250,000 fine and 5 years of supervised release.

Dutschke is expected to appear in the United States District Court in Oxford, Mississippi, on Monday, April 29, 2013, before U. S. Magistrate Judge S. Allan Alexander. The arrest is based on a federal charge. A defendant is presumed innocent until proven guilty in court. The arrest resulted from a cooperative investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation-Mississippi and Memphis Joint Terrorism Task Forces, the United States Secret Service, the U. S. Postal Inspection Service, the U. S. Capitol Police, the United States Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Mississippi and the Counterterrorism Section of the Justice Department’s National Security Division, assisted by the following state and local agencies: Mississippi National Guard 47th Civil Support, Mississippi Office of Homeland Security, Lee County Sheriff’s Office, Prentiss Couny Sheriff’s Office, Corinth Police Department, Tupelo Police Department and Booneville Police Department.

The public is reminded to be vigilant in alerting any suspicious letters or activity to the appropriate authorities.

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UPDATE: 1:05 p.m. – Dutschke’s attorney, Lori Nail Basham, told The Associated Press Saturday in a text message that “the authorities have confirmed Mr. Dutschke’s arrest. We have no comment at this time.” Basham also said via text that she didn’t know what the charges against Dutschke were. … .. On Saturday, Steve Holland said he can’t say for certain that Dutschke is the person who sent the letter to his mother but added, “I feel confident the FBI knows what they are doing. We’re ready for this long nightmare to be over,” Holland told The Associated Press.

UPDATE: 10:29 a.m. – Statement from FBI …

James Everett Dutschke was arrested, without incident, at his residence in Tupelo, MS, at approximately 12:50 a.m. Saturday, April 27, by Special Agents of the FBI. Requests for any additional information concerning this matter must be addressed to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Mississippi.

Deborah Madden
Assistant to Chief Division Counsel/Public Affairs Specialist
Federal Bureau of Investigation/Jackson Field Office

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Note: Online story posted at 9:05 a.m. with updates after original posting.

James Everett Dutschke was arrested around 1 a.m. at his home in Tupelo Saturday and turned over to the U.S. Marshal Services without incident, Tupelo Police Chief Tony Carleton, confirmed Saturday to the NEMS Daily Journal at 9 a.m.

FBI spokeswoman Deborah Madden tells The Associated Press 41-year-old Everett Dutschke was arrested Saturday at his Tupelo home in connection with the letters, which allegedly contained ricin. They were sent last week to President Barack Obama, Sen. Roger Wicker of Mississippi and earlier to an 80-year-old Lee County Justice Court Judge, Sadie Holland.

Dutschke is expected to appear in federal court Monday. It appears he is being held at the Lafayette County Detention Center. No officials have confirmed that information. Dutschke’s attorney, Lori Nail Basham, could not immediately be reached for comment.

Federal officials staked out the South Canal Street home of Dutschke all day Friday after searching his home and taekwondo studio Tuesday and Wednesday.

A neighbor who lives across the street from Dutschke but preferred not to be identified said he observed on Thursday and Friday unmarked cars parked nearby that didn’t belong to residents living in the area.
“We’re ready for our neighborhood to get back to normal,” he said.

An investigation into Dutschke began in earnest when his name was mentioned at the Monday hearing of Paul Kevin Curtis, the Corinth man formerly suspected of mailing ricin letters to officials on April 8.

Charges against Curtis have since been dropped. Though federal officials have kept quiet, Dutschke appears to be at the center of attention.

Tupelo Insurance agent Jack Curtis, brother of Kevin Curtis and former employer of Dutschke, said Saturday morning he was interested in seeing any evidence authorities collected related to the new arrest.

“If they have the evidence, let the chips fall where they may,” Jack Curtis said. “I hate to speculate on anyone’s guilt until the evidence comes out, but it would further vindicate my brother.”

Curtis’ attorney, Christi McCoy, said Saturday: “We are relieved but also saddened. This crime is nothing short of diabolical. I have seen a lot of meanness in the past two decades, but this stops me in my tracks. ”

Ryan Taylor, a spokesman for Wicker, said Saturday that “because the investigation is still ongoing, we’re not able to comment.”

Dutschke said earlier he was in contact with the FBI almost a week before Monday’s hearing.

Earlier this week Dutschke said he suspects his name was one given to the FBI by Curtis’ ex-wife when she was asked for names of people who could have framed Curtis.

The only evidence against Curtis was a similarity in the content of the letters and a post he made on Facebook, both included the signature, “This is KC and I approve this message.”

Dutschke said previously he gave the FBI permission to search his home Tuesday morning and they did from around 1:30 p.m. until 11 p.m.

The officials have maintained a presence all week in Dutschke’s Canal Street neighborhood, setting up an observational parameter around his home.

Dutschke has said throughout the investigation that he has only come into contact with Curtis on three occasions. Two of those occasions were in person and Dutschke said Curtis approached him and “accosted” him about trying to publish a letter or article written by Curtis.

Dutschke said on a third occasion they had an email exchange regarding a Mensa certificate posted on one of Curtis’ social networking pages.

He said Curtis’ certificate was fake and emailed Curtis to tell him to remove the certificate immediately.

The email exchange was their last contact and happened June 1, 2010, according to Dutschke.

This is not the first time Dutschke has been involved with law enforcement officials. Dutschke is currently out on $25,000 bond facing three state indictments that he allegedly fondled three females under the age of 16.

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.

More as it is available.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.