Woman sentenced to 18 years in ricin case

A Texas actress who tried to blame her husband after sending ricin-laced letters to officials including President Obama was sentenced Wednesday to 18 years in prison.

A federal judge gave Shannon Guess Richardson, 36, the maximum sentence under her plea deal on a federal charge of possessing and producing a biological toxin. Richardson was also ordered to pay restitution of about $367,000. She had pleaded guilty to the charge in December.

Richardson mailed the letters addressed to Obama, then-New York Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg (I) and Mark Glaze, who at the time was director of Mayors Against Illegal Guns, Bloomberg’s group advocating for tougher gun control. Prosecutors say she mailed the three letters from New Boston, outside Texarkana, then went to police and claimed her husband had done it. She was arrested in June 2013.

— Associated Press

Former Taliban prisoner hires lawyer

Former Taliban prisoner Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl has retained a civilian lawyer to represent him during the ongoing Army investigation into his disappearance in eastern Afghanistan in 2009.

Yale law professor Eugene R. Fidell, an expert in military law, said he met with Bergdahl in Texas last week and would be present when he is interviewed by Gen. Kenneth Dahl, who is leading the Army’s inquiry into the circumstances of the soldier’s disappearance and whether Bergdahl intended to desert his unit.

Fidell said he is working in conjunction with an “interim” military lawyer who has been appointed to represent Bergdahl.

Bergdahl, who was held prisoner for five years, some of it in a locked cage, was released six weeks ago in a controversial prisoner exchange with the Taliban. On Tuesday, military officials said he had completed his medical treatment at Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio and is now on “regular duty,” living with fellow soldiers on the base.

Army investigators were not able to interview Bergdahl until he had made that transition; the deadline for the inquiry is mid-August. An earlier Army inquiry into Bergdahl’s disappearance found that he left his post without permission but did not answer the question of his intent.

— Stephanie McCrummen

Coast Guard rescues stranded passengers

About 100 passengers stuck overnight on a casino boat that grounded off the Georgia coast were taken off the vessel in small groups Wednesday after efforts to tow it failed, the U.S. Coast Guard said.

The 174-foot boat carrying 96 passengers and 27 crew members became stuck on rocks just before 1 a.m., about two miles northeast of Tybee Island, the Coast Guard said. No injuries were reported aboard the Escapade, which is owned by Tradewinds Casino Cruise Lines.

— Reuters