Second Ricin Suspect Appears in Court

Posted April 29, 2013 at 4:34pm

First, it was an Elvis impersonator charged with mailing ricin-laced letters to government officials, among them Sen. Roger Wicker, R-Miss.

Now, a martial arts instructor is awaiting the government’s case against him in connection with the crime.

J. Everett Dutschke of Tupelo, Miss., was arrested April 27 on allegations of “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.”

After a brief court appearance Monday in Oxford, Miss., Dutschke is due back in front of the judge Thursday, at which time federal prosecutors will lay out their case against him.

The sworn affidavit describing law enforcement officials’ apprehension of Dutschke, and the evidence against him, was under seal Monday afternoon. It is not yet known what agents might have found after a thorough search of Dutschke’s home, van and the taekwondo studio he operates.

Current information, however, suggests law enforcement officials suspect Dutschke might have framed the initial suspect, Corinth, Miss., resident and Elvis impersonator Paul Kevin Curtis. The two have a long-standing feud. Dutschke first offended Curtis by declining to publish Curtis’ novel, a capability he said he possessed. Then, Dutschke is said to have threatened to sue Curtis for publishing a fake Mensa certificate on Facebook; Dutschke has claimed to be a true member of the high-IQ organization. The two also squabbled over their musical endeavors — Dutschke had his own band, which he reportedly said would blow Curtis’ Elvis routine “off the national circuit.”

Senate Sergeant-at-Arms Terrance Gainer, who has been “fully briefed on recent developments,” would tell CQ Roll Call only that “the joint effort between the FBI and the Capitol Police especially, along with the Postal Inspection Service and the Secret Service, made good solid decisions in the first arrest and made good solid decisions in this arrest.”

At first, all indicators seemed to implicate Curtis, a frequent correspondent with Wicker’s office who years ago performed his Elvis routine at a party hosted by the senator.

For one, the contaminated letters sent to Wicker, President Barack Obama and Lee County Judge Sadie Holland all bore the same handwriting on the same type of paper. For another, all three referenced Curtis’ pet projects, such as his novel based on a conspiracy theory he claims to have uncovered regarding a plot to sell black market body parts. And each note was signed “KC,” the initials Curtis uses to sign off on his Internet posts.

Capitol Police Chief Kim Dine lauded his officers, and the Justice Department proclaimed “the threat of danger has been averted” after Curtis’ arrest April 18. But investigators couldn’t find one key piece of evidence: ricin, or ingredients or tools or recipes that would have been used to produce the material. Unable to uncover this proof, officials cleared Curtis April 25.

Gainer denied that anybody suggested the matter was settled. “I was always pretty clear the investigation was ongoing,” he said.

He went on to reflect, though, that these things are rarely cut and dried.

“It is complicated,” Gainer said. “Should we have waited one day more? Two days more? That’s the risk you run of how long you are going to let a suspect out. Do you make it public? Do you wait awhile? That’s the push and pull that constantly goes on with police and prosecutors.

“The bottom line is this: I believe they had evidence and followed the trail that led to the first arrestee,” he said.