Preliminary court hearing held for James Dutschke, new suspect in ricin investigation

The Mississippi man charged with sending poisoned letters to President Obama and two other public officials appeared in court Monday, the Associated Press reports:

James Everett Dutschke made a brief appearance Monday in federal court wearing an orange jumpsuit with his hands shackled. Authorities spent several days last week searching Dutschke’s home and former business but have said very little about the suspect beyond a news release announcing the charge of making and possessing ricin over the weekend. . .

He already had legal problems. Earlier this month, he pleaded not guilty in state court to two child molestation charges involving three girls younger than 16, at least one of whom was a student at his martial arts studio. He also was appealing a conviction on a different charge of indecent exposure.

Authorities had previously suspected another man of sending the letters, which contained ricin, a poison derived from castor beans. (Read more about ricin here.) Charges against that man, Paul Kevin Curtis of Corinth, Mississippi, an Elvis impersonator, were dismissed last week. Authorities now believe Curtis was framed:

Dutschke. . . and Curtis have a fraught history, seemingly played out almost entirely online. After Curtis was released from custody last week, he said he and Dutschke had had a falling-out and that Curtis had challenged Dutschke to a fight that never occurred. . .

Dutschke said last week that he and Curtis had gotten into a dispute a few years ago when Curtis claimed to be a member of Mensa, the club for people with high IQs. Dutschke asked Curtis to remove that claim from his Facebook page and threatened to sue him if he didn’t. (Read the rest of the article here.)

The Federal Bureau of Investigation had briefly lost track of Dutschke last week when he went into hiding before finding him again and arresting him early Saturday morning.

Max Ehrenfreund is a blogger on the Financial desk and writes for Know More and Wonkblog.
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