James Everett Dutschke, 41, has been jailed since his arrest last
April, when authorities accused him of sending ricin-tainted letters
to Obama, U.S. Senator Roger Wicker of Mississippi and a local Lee
County judge, Sadie Holland.
Ricin is a highly toxic protein found in castor oil plants that can
kill an adult human in tiny doses.
Dutschke, a former martial arts instructor and one-time political
candidate, originally had denied the charges but on Friday changed
his plea in U.S. District Court in Oxford, Mississippi, according to
a Justice Department press release.
"It's closure, and any time you can get that it's a good thing,"
said Lee County Sheriff Jim Johnson, whose department had assisted
the FBI and other agencies in identifying and arresting Dutschke
The guilty plea "has eased our community and eased our victims and
the other people he could have come in contact with," said Johnson,
who described Dutschke as a manipulator who thinks he can "outsmart
any person of authority or any system."
Dutschke's attorney, Ken Coghlan, said the plea agreement involved
resolution of outstanding state charges of child molestation.
"He (Dutschke) was facing a lot of uncertainty and at least now he
knows where he stands," said Coghlan, noting that his client faced a
maximum penalty of life in prison.
Under the agreement, Coghlan said Dutschke would plead guilty to the
molestation charges next week and would serve his sentences
concurrently in federal prison.
Dutschke pleaded guilty to four
charges of developing and possessing the biological agent ricin and
subsequently mailing ricin-laced, threatening letters, including one
that threatened bodily harm to the president of the United States.
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Only Holland received one of the letters. The U.S. Postal Service
intercepted those that were sent to Obama and Wicker.
The plea agreement was announced by John Carlin, acting assistant
attorney general for national security; Felicia Adams, the U.S.
attorney for the Northern District of Mississippi; and Daniel
McMullen, special agent in charge of the FBI's Jackson field office.
Dutschke will be sentenced in about 60 days, the Justice Department
Dutschke previously had pleaded not guilty to five counts of a grand
jury indictment and denied sending the letters. He also pleaded not
guilty on December 3 to a new charge that he tried to continue the
scheme from jail.
An initial indictment in June said Dutschke tried to frame Paul
Kevin Curtis, an Elvis impersonator, by lifting phrases from
Curtis's Facebook account to make it look as though he was
responsible for the letters.
(Additional reporting by David Adams and Eric M. Johnson;
Colleen Jenkins, Sophie Hares, Leslie Adler and Ken Wills)
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