Mississippi martial arts instructor gets 25 years in ricin case


A man was sentenced to 25 years in federal prison on Monday for mailing ricin to President Obama and other officials in the latest turn through the legal maze involving a martial arts instructor, an Elvis impersonator and a plea deal that was again on after the defendant initially pleaded guilty and then changed his mind.

U.S. District Judge Sharion Aycock in Aberdeen, Miss., sentenced James Everett Dutschke, 41, to 25 years in prison to be followed by five years of supervised release after the taekwondo instructor decided not to withdraw his guilty plea after all.

At his hearing last week, Dutschke withdrew that plea and launched into a 30-minute rant, lashing out at Paul Kevin Curtis, the Elvis impersonator who said he was framed by Dutschke in the ricin case.


Dutschke, when asked by the judge whether he would like to make another statement before sentencing, replied: “I think it would be best if I don’t,” and then laughed, according to the Daily Journal in Tupelo, Miss.

In April 2013, letters containing ricin were sent to Obama, Sen. Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) and Judge Sadie Holland of Lee County Justice Court in Tupelo. Ricin is a deadly toxin refined from the castor oil plant and its seeds, known as castor beans.

On April 17 last year, Curtis, the Elvis impersonator, was detained on suspicion of sending the letters. But officials cleared him after no ricin was found during a search of his home. Curtis, through his lawyer, maintained that he probably had been framed by Dutschke, with whom the impersonator was locked in an online feud.

Ten days later, Dutschke was arrested in connection with the ricin mailings and in January of this year pleaded guilty to one count of developing and possessing ricin, and three subsequent counts of mailing threatening letters laced with the substance.

Last Tuesday, the day he was scheduled to be sentenced, Dutschke said he wanted to withdraw his guilty plea and launched into his tirade, again accusing Curtis, whom he compared to Barney, the purple dinosaur and beloved children’s character. Dutschke offered to eat the contents of the letters to show that they weren’t poisonous and blamed the government for conspiring against him.

The sentencing was delayed to allow Dutschke time to file the appropriate papers, but he never did. Withdrawing the guilty 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 agreement appropriate.

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