News Column

Trial in Ricin Case of Mississippi Man Set

June 9, 2013

By Ron Maxey

The Mississippi man charged with mailing ricin-laced letters to President Barack Obama and other public officials is scheduled to go on trial July 29 in Aberdeen, Miss., after he waived his right to appear for arraignment in Oxford Thursday, according to court documents filed this week.

A federal grand jury released a five-count indictment Monday charging James Everett Dutschke, 41, of Tupelo with developing, producing and stockpiling the poison ricin, threatening the president and others and attempting to impede the investigation.

Dutschke was to appear for arraignment in Oxford Thursday, but his lawyer, George Lucas, waived Dutschke's right to appear in a court filing Tuesday. The filing also entered not guilty pleas to all five counts in the indictment.

In the most recent filing made public, dated Wednesday, a July 29 trial date is set before Judge Sharion Aycock in Aberdeen. The filing gives attorneys until June 20 to complete discovery and until June 27 to file pretrial motions. A plea agreement, if one is reached, must be filed with the court by July 15.

Lucas had no comment when contacted Wednesday. Dutschke has denied any involvement in the letters.

Dutschke, a former martial arts instructor and unsuccessful political candidate, was arrested April 27 and charged with mailing the poisoned letters, carrying Memphis postmarks, to Obama; Sen. Roger Wicker, R-Miss.; and Lee County Justice Court Judge Sadie Holland in the days after the Boston Marathon bombings.

Dutschke is being held without bond in the Lafayette County Jail in Oxford.

The first man charged in the case, entertainer and Elvis impersonator Paul Kevin Curtis, was arrested on April 17, but the charges were dropped six days later when the investigation shifted to Dutschke.

After his arrest, Curtis said he was framed and pointed investigators to Dutschke. The men had met years earlier while both worked for an insurance company owned by Curtis' brother. Curtis says they had feuded over the years, but says he doesn't know exactly what started it.

Dutschke's arrest came after an extensive investigation of his Tupelo home and former martial arts studio. According to documents filed earlier, Dutschke burned documents and went to great lengths to elude authorities.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

Originally published by Ron Maxey maxey@desotoappeal.com 901-333-2019 .

(c) 2013 Commercial Appeal, The. Provided by ProQuest LLC. All rights Reserved.




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