Dutschke proclaimed his innocence last week, saying he had cooperated with investigators and insisting he had no idea how to manufacture ricin, a toxin derived from the castor bean plant that can kill quickly if inhaled. Lori Nail Basham, Dutschke’s attorney, declined to comment Saturday on her client’s arrest.
Dutschke had been the target of the investigation since the release from jail last week of Paul Kevin Curtis, 45, of Corinth, Miss. Curtis is the Elvis impersonator whom federal investigators initially charged with sending the poison letters to Obama, U.S. Sen. Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) and Lee County Justice Court Judge Sadie Holland.
Holland said in a phone interview Saturday that she can’t imagine why Dutschke would have wanted to send her a poisoned letter, as authorities allege — “I have no earthly idea” — but that she does remember having one unpleasant encounter with him.
In 2007, Dutschke ran as a Republican candidate for the Mississippi House of Representatives against her son, state Rep. Steve Holland, a Democrat. The judge said she attended a rally at which Dutschke excoriated her son’s performance in office. She confronted him afterward.
“I told him: ‘This is no way to run a campaign. You need to tell the people what you will do and what you have done. Don’t run your opponent down,’ ” she said.
Days later, she said, Dutschke came to her office and apologized to her. His candidacy was not successful.
Earlier this month, Holland went to work and learned that she had received a letter in an envelope with something granular rattling inside. She opened the letter, which contained a vague death threat and was signed, “This is KC and I approve this message.” She didn’t let the mysterious material fall out of the letter, and she washed her hands carefully, she said. She felt no ill effects, but the grainy material was ricin, authorities later determined.
The federal investigation initially focused on Curtis, who also had a connection to Holland. She sentenced him to six months in jail for a 2003 assault on a Tupelo lawyer, according to court documents. Curtis had also been hired by Wicker to perform at a party in his Elvis persona.