Man in ricin case: ‘I love my country’
Federal agents wearing hazardous material suits and breathing apparatus inspect the home and possessions in the West Hills Subdivision house of Paul Kevin Curtis in Corinth, Miss., Friday, April 19, 2013. Curtis is in custody under the suspicion of sending letters covered in ricin to the U.S. President Barack Obama and U.S. Sen. Roger Wicker, R-Miss. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)
Jack Curtis, brother of Paul Kevin Curtis, speaks outside of federal court in Oxford, Miss. on Monday, April 22, 2013. Paul Kevin Curtis is in custody under the suspicion of sending letters which tested positive for ricin to U.S. President Barack Obama and U.S. Sen. Roger Wicker, R-Miss. (AP Photo/Oxford Eagle, Bruce Newman) NO SALES
Paul Kevin Curtis, who had been in custody under suspicion of sending ricin-laced letters to President Barack Obama and others, left, hugs his attorney Christi McCoy during a news conference following his release Tuesday, April 23, 2013 in in Oxford, Miss. The charges were dismissed without prejudice, which means they could be re-instated if prosecutors so choose. (AP Photo/Oxford Eagle, Bruce Newman) MANDATORY CREDIT, MAGS OUT, NO SALES
Charges were dropped yesterday against the Mississippi man accused of sending ricin-laced letters to President Obama and others, while authorities searched another man’s home in connection with the case.
The surprising move was announced in a brief document filed in federal court hours after Paul Kevin Curtis was released from custody. The charges were dismissed without prejudice, which means they could be re-instated if prosecutors so choose.
Attorneys for Curtis have suggested he was framed, and an FBI agent testified in court this week that no evidence of ricin was found in searches of his home. At a news conference yesterday, they declined to discuss whether they were told what new information the government had uncovered.
“I respect President Obama,” Curtis said to reporters. “I love my country and would never do anything to pose a threat to him or any other U.S. official.”
Curtis was arrested last Wednesday at his house in Corinth, Miss. The first of the letters was found two days earlier.
In Tupelo, law enforcement officers converged yesterday on the home of another Mississippi man, including some in hazmat suits.
Everett Dutschke said in a phone interview that the FBI was at his Tupelo home for the search connected to the mailing of poisoned letters to Obama, U.S. Sen. Roger Wicker of Mississippi and a state judge. Dutschke said his house also was searched last week.
Dutschke has maintained his innocence and says he doesn’t know anything about the ingredients for ricin.
After charges were dropped against Curtis, he said: “I’m a little shocked.”
Yesterday’s events began when the third day of a preliminary and detention hearing was cancelled without officials explaining the change. Within two hours, Curtis had been released, though it wasn’t clear why at first.
Through his lawyers, Curtis has denied involvement in the letters.
Later, at the news conference, Curtis said the past week had been a nightmare for his family.
Referring to questioning by investigators, Curtis said: “I thought they said rice, and I said, ‘I don’t even eat rice.’ ”
FBI Agent Brandon Grant said in court Monday that searches last week of Curtis’s vehicle and house in Corinth, Miss., found no ricin, ingredients for the poison or devices used to make it. A search of Curtis’s computers found no evidence he researched making ricin. Authorities produced no other physical evidence at the hearings tying Curtis to the letters.