Authorities have dropped charges against a Mississippi man accused of sending letters laced with the poison ricin to President Obama, a U.S. senator and a judge, while FBI agents searched another man’s house in connection with the case.
Federal authorities were mum about their decision and announced it in a short document filed in federal court in Oxford, Miss., hours after Paul Kevin Curtis was released from custody.
The charges were dismissed “without prejudice,” which means they could be reinstated if prosecutors so choose.
Mr. Curtis, 45, was arrested April 17 at his home in Corinth, Miss., after he was charged with mailing ricin-laced letters to Mr. Obama and Sen. Roger Wicker, Mississippi Republican. The letters were detected at the off-site White House and Senate mail facilities and never reached their targets.
Judge Sadie Holland of the Lee County Justice Court received a similar letter, investigators said.
After his release, Mr. Curtis said he was confused as to why he was arrested.
“Just being in a state of overwhelm is the best way I can describe it,” he told reporters after his release. “When you’ve been charged with something you’ve never heard of — ricin or whatever — I thought they said ‘rice.’ I said I don’t even eat rice.”
“I love my country and would never do anything to pose a threat to [Mr. Obama] or any other U.S. official,” he said. “This past week has been a nightmare for myself and my family.”
Mr. Curtis‘ attorney, Christi R. McCoy, said she was “thrilled” that the U.S. attorney’s office dropped the charges.
“They led with evidence they had at the time and realized it was a dead end and then they went to where the evidence was,” she said.
She said she believes Mr. Curtis may have been framed.
On Monday, FBI agent Brandon Grant said that Friday searches of Mr. Curtis‘ vehicle and house found no ricin or devices used to make the substance. A search of the suspect’s computers found no evidence that he researched making ricin.
But Mr. Grant said at the time that, while other people could have been involved, “given information right now, we believe we have the right individual.”
Ricin, naturally found in castor beans, can be fatal if ingested, inhaled or absorbed. Ricin poisoning has no known antidote and is difficult to detect as a cause of death.