Sender of ricin gets more time

May 27, 2014

JACKSON, Miss. — A Mississippi man who sent letters dusted with the poison ricin to President Obama and other officials was sentenced Tuesday to 20 years in prison on unrelated state charges of fondling three martial arts students.

James Everett Dutschke was sentenced in Lee County Circuit Court in Tupelo. Judge Paul Funderburk ordered Dutschke to serve 20 years on the fondling charges at the same time he is spending 25 years in federal prison on the ricin letter charges, District Attorney Trent Kelly said. That will be followed by a 25-year suspended sentence on the state charges. Dutschke also was ordered to register as a sex offender.

The sentence was in line with what prosecutors had proposed when Dutschke pleaded guilty in January to inappropriately touching the students at his Tupelo martial arts studio. Assistant District Attorney Sadie Gardner said the fondling occurred between 2007 and 2013.

“It was nothing other than what we expected,” said Lori Neil Basham, Dutschke’s lawyer.

On Tuesday, the grandmother of one of the victims addressed Funderburk about the harm Dutschke had done.

“She basically told him he was a child molester and said no amount of time could make it all right,” Kelly said.

Basham said Dutschke returned to federal custody following the state court sentencing.

Dutschke was sentenced on the federal charges May 19 by U.S. District Judge Sharion Aycock. Dutschke had pleaded guilty to the federal charges in January, then told the judge May 13 that he wanted to withdraw his guilty plea, claiming he was innocent in both the ricin and fondling cases. Within days, he had changed his mind and told Aycock he would stick with his guilty plea.

Dutschke did not speak in court Tuesday when he was sentenced, Kelly said.

A 42-year-old Tupelo resident, Dutschke sent the letters to Obama, Republican U.S. Sen. Roger Wicker (R-Miss.), and Mississippi judge Sadie Holland in April 2013 in what prosecutors have said was an elaborate plot to frame a rival, Paul Kevin Curtis. Poisoned letters addressed to Obama and Wicker were intercepted before delivery, but one letter reached Holland. She was not harmed.

Curtis, an Elvis impersonator and singer who lives in Corinth, had feuded with Dutschke, mainly through online postings.

Associated Press

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