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No bond for martial arts instructor charged with sending ricin letters

James Everett Dutschke of Tupelo, Miss., has been arrested, accused of sending letters containing deadly ricin addressed to President Obama and a senator. He has feuded with Paul Kevin Curtis, who was charged with the crime and later released. NBC's Pete Williams reports.

A judge declined to set bond Monday for a Mississippi martial arts instructor charged with sending poisoned letters to President Barack Obama and other government officials.

Prosecutors said they believed James Everett Dutschke was dangerous and a flight risk, according to NBC affiliate WTVA.

Dutschke was arrested Saturday morning at his home in Tupelo and charged with attempted use of a biological weapon — the poison ricin, which authorities say turned up in letters to the president, a senator and a Mississippi judge.

The arrest was the latest bizarre twist in the case. Authorities first arrested another man, an Elvis impersonator named Paul Kevin Curtis, who frequently writes to Congress and who has a longstanding feud with Dutschke. Charges against Curtis were dropped.

Curtis says he was framed. He has said Dutschke snubbed him after showing interest in publishing his book on a black market for body parts. Curtis also acknowledged posting a fake Mensa certificate online as part of a trap he set for Dutschke.

Law enforcement officials said they found traces of ricin after searching Dutschke’s home, business and cars. Dutschke has said that he is a patriotic American, holds no grudges and didn’t do it.

“I wouldn’t recognize ricin if I saw it,” he told reporters last week. “Would you?”

Dutschke, 41, who earlier this month pledged not guilty to two child molestation charges, faces life in prison if he is convicted on the ricin charge.

Bert Mohr / AP

Paul Kevin Curtis speaks to reporters last week in Oxford, Miss.

Besides Obama, the ricin letters were sent to Sen. Roger Wicker, R-Miss., and to Judge Sadie Holland of Lee County, Miss. The letters to Obama and Wicker were intercepted at screening facilities. Holland’s letter reached her, but she was unharmed.

“Boy, I must be important,” she joked to The Clarion-Ledger newspaper of Jackson. “I’m right up there with the president and Senator Wicker, huh?”

Ricin is made from castor beans and can kill, but an FBI agent testified in court that the ricin in the letters was crude and not very potent, and looked like castor beans ground in a blender.

The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.

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