25 years for Miss. man in poisoned letters case

(AP Photo/Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal, Thomas Wells)
(AP Photo/Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal, Thomas Wells)

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — A Mississippi man who pleaded guilty to sending letters dusted with the poison ricin to President Barack Obama and other officials was sentenced Monday to 25 years in prison.

James Everett Dutschke was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Sharion Aycock in Aberdeen after telling the judge he had changed his mind about wanting to withdraw his guilty plea in the case. He also was sentenced to five years of supervised release and remains in federal custody.

The 42-year-old Tupelo man told Aycock on May 13 that he wanted to withdraw the plea agreement he made with federal prosecutors in January. He told Aycock that federal prosecutors lied when they said he made the poison and about finding his DNA on a dust mask.

Dutschke said he was guilty only of using castor beans to make a fertilizer that couldn’t hurt anyone.

He was accused of sending the letters to Obama, Republican U.S. Sen. Roger Wicker and Mississippi judge Sadie Holland.

Poisoned letters addressed to Obama and Wicker were intercepted before delivery, but one letter reached Holland. She was not harmed.

Withdrawing the plea could have opened Dutschke to a possible life sentence as well as a longer sentence in a state court proceeding where he had pleaded guilty to fondling charges. The two cases had been linked in the January plea agreement.

Federal prosecutor Chad Lamar said the judge found the outcome to be balanced.

“She found our agreement to be a fair sentence and one that represented the severity of the crime committed,” Lamar said after the hearing.

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