Mississippi man pleads not guilty in ricin-laced letters case

Tue Dec 3, 2013 2:45pm EST

Everett Dutschke works on his mini-van in his driveway in Tupelo, Mississippi, in this file photo taken April 26, 2013. REUTERS/Thomas Wells/Files

Everett Dutschke works on his mini-van in his driveway in Tupelo, Mississippi, in this file photo taken April 26, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/Thomas Wells/Files

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(Reuters) - A Mississippi man accused of sending poisoned letters to President Barack Obama and other officials, and pinning them on an Elvis impersonator, pleaded not guilty on Tuesday to a new charge that he tried to continue the scheme from jail.

A federal indictment on November 20 charged James Everett Dutschke with attempting to recruit someone to produce ricin and send it in a letter to U.S. Senator Roger Wicker of Mississippi.

The grand jury found that Dutschke sought to make it appear as though the letter was from the same man, Paul Kevin Curtis, whom he previously tried to frame.

"D. had to be sacrificed to show the corruption in the system. I tried to warn you. Ha. K," read the letter.

Dutschke has been jailed since his arrest in April, when authorities first accused him of sending ricin-tainted letters to Obama, Wicker and a Mississippi judge. Ricin is a highly toxic protein found in castor oil plants that can kill an adult human in tiny doses.

An initial indictment in June said Dutschke tried to frame Curtis, an Elvis impersonator, by lifting phrases from Curtis' Facebook account to make it look as though he was responsible for the letters.

Curtis has said the two men were feuding. He sued Dutschke for damages after spending six days in jail in the case before authorities decided that the other man was the perpetrator.

Court records show Dutschke's attorney entered the not guilty plea and waived his client's appearance at an arraignment set for Wednesday in Oxford. A trial is set for May. If convicted, Dutschke faces a maximum penalty of life in prison.

(Reporting by Colleen Jenkins; Editing by Cynthia Johnston)

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