James Everett Dutschke made his first appearance in a federal courtroom in Oxford, Miss., after being charged Saturday with making a deadly poison sent to President Barack Obama and others and was ordered held without bond until a hearing later this week when prosecutors are expected to describe what evidence they have against him.
Dutschke was wearing an orange jumpsuit and had his hands and feet shackled during the brief appearance in federal court Monday morning. The 41-year-old suspect said little during his hearing other than answering affirmatively to the judge's questions about whether he understood the charges against him.
On Saturday after he was arrested, Dutschke was charged with "knowingly developing, producing, stockpiling, transferring, acquiring, retaining and possessing a biological agent, toxin and delivery system, for use as a weapon, to wit: ricin."
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The judge ordered Dutschke to remain jailed without bond at the LaFayette County Detention Center until a preliminary and detention hearing scheduled for Thursday, May 2, at 9 a.m. A federal grand jury is expected to look over the case. An indictment could be issued against him.
Dutschke is being held without bond because he is considered a danger to the community. If found guilty, Dutschke is basically being charged with terrorism and could face a $250,000 fine plus life in prison.
Three poisoned letters were mailed earlier in April to President Obama, U.S. Senator Roger Wicker of Mississippi and Lee County, Miss., Justice Court Judge Sadie Holland.
Federal authorities spent several days last week searching Dutschke's Tupelo home and former martial arts studio but have said very little about the suspect beyond a news release announcing the charge of making and possessing ricin over the weekend.
Almost a week after Elvis tribute artist Paul Kevin Curtis was freed and cleared of all charges in the ricin letter case, Dutschke found himself in court on the exact same charges.
Curtis's attorney Hal Neilson said his client gave the FBI Dutschke's name from the very beginning.
"Kevin in his initial interview provided the name of Dutschke and gave that name to the FBI," Neilson said. "The question was, 'who could have done this to you if you didn't do it?'"
Prosecuting attorney Chad Lamar refused to comment on the case, as did Dutschke's attorney, George Lucas. Lucas' only comment was that he and Dutschke only received the criminal complaint 15 before the hearing and had not had time to review it.
"I believe they have the right guy, I believe the government did a very thorough investigation before they charged another person," Neilson said. "They dotted the I's and crossed their T's in this one, and I only wish they had afforded Kevin Curtis this instead of snatching him up and putting the evidence together after the fact."
While Dutschke was returned to jail, Meanwhile, former suspect Curtis is currently at an undisclosed location near Tupelo and is trying to put his life back together after being released from federal custody.
"Today we are trying to find him a place to live," Neilson said. "His home was totally destroyed. It was unliveable. We've got his car back, trying to get his property back. I believe the FBI is going to bring his cell phone by. We are trying to pick up the pieces slowly but surely."
Legally there is a hurdle in the Dutschke case for the prosecution because of the thought that the FBI arrested the wrong guy the first time, could they have gotten the wrong person twice.
Dutschke 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. He told The Associated Press last week that his lawyer told him not to comment on those cases.
Associated Press reporter Holbrook Mohr contributed to this report.
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