Bloomberg News

Spokane Ricin Probe Suspect Charged With Threatening Judge (1)

May 23, 2013

A 37-year-old man was charged with threatening a federal judge in Spokane, Washington, in a letter sent with the deadly chemical ricin, the FBI said.

Matthew Ryan Buquet was arrested yesterday and charged with mailing a threatening communication on May 14 addressed to U.S. District Judge Frederick Van Sickle at the federal courthouse in Spokane, according to a court filing yesterday.

The letter contained “a threat to injure and kill Judge Van Sickle,” according to a grand jury indictment. The Federal Bureau of Investigation said in a statement yesterday that tests of the letter confirmed it contained ricin.

A bail hearing was scheduled for May 28. Buquet is in custody, authorities said today.

A 41-year-old man from Tupelo, Mississippi, was arrested last month in connection with the mailing of letters containing ricin to President Barack Obama and U.S. Senator Roger Wicker. James Everett Dutschke was charged with producing a biological agent for use as a weapon.

Dutschke, a former martial arts instructor, was arrested on April 27, four days after federal prosecutors dropped charges against Paul Kevin Curtis, 45, an Elvis impersonator from Corinth, Mississippi. A lawyer for Curtis had told a federal judge during a court hearing that he may have been framed by Dutschke because the men had a long-running feud.

Plea Entered

Buquet appeared in court yesterday with an attorney and was advised of the allegations and his rights, according to court documents. He was appointed a federal defender and a not guilty plea was entered, according to the minutes of a hearing before U.S. Magistrate Judge Cynthia Imbrogno.

The maximum penalty for mailing a threatening letter is 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

Representatives of the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Spokane didn’t respond to a voice-mail message seeking comment on the indictment. Nor did Robert Fischer, a federal defender at the hearing.

Ricin is made from castor beans and has been used experimentally in medicine to kill cancer cells, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta. It’s harmful and potentially fatal if inhaled or ingested, according to the CDC.

The case is U.S. v. Buquet, 2:13-cr-00085, U.S. District Court, Eastern District of Washington (Spokane).

To contact the reporter on this story: Karen Gullo in San Francisco at kgullo@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Michael Hytha at mhytha@bloomberg.net


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