U.S. drops charges against Mississippi man in ricin letters case
TUPELO, Miss. - U.S. prosecutors dropped charges against a Mississippi man accused of sending ricin-laced letters to President Barack Obama and a U.S. senator, according to a court order signed by a judge on Tuesday.
The decision came hours after Paul Kevin Curtis was released from a Mississippi jail on bond.
In a court order dismissing the charges, prosecutors said the "ongoing investigation has revealed new information" without providing any addition detail.
Curtis told a news conference afterward that he respected Obama and would never harm a public servant. "I love this country," he said.
The release of Curtis, 45, on bond came shortly after a judge indefinitely postponed a court hearing on his detention.
Christi McCoy, Curtis' attorney, told CNN she believed her client had been framed. The Clarion Ledger newspaper reported that law enforcement officials searched the house of a second Mississippi man in connection with the case. A spokesperson for the U.S. Attorney's Office in Oxford, Mississippi, did not return calls for comment.
"I do believe that someone who was familiar and is familiar with Kevin just simply took his personal information and did this to him," McCoy told CNN. "It is absolutely horrific that someone would do this."
Curtis was arrested last Wednesday at his home in Corinth, Mississippi. He was charged with mailing letters to Obama, U.S. Senator Roger Wicker of Mississippi and a state judge containing a substance that preliminarily tested positive for ricin, a highly lethal poison made from castor beans.
The letters were intercepted by authorities before they reached their destinations.
Over the weekend, investigators searched Curtis' home, his vehicle and his ex-wife's home, but failed to find any incriminating evidence, McCoy told the Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal.
The poison scare put Washington on edge during the same week the Boston Marathon bombings occurred.
Curtis, known in Mississippi as an Elvis impersonator, was held in the Lafayette County Detention Center prior to his release. He was charged with threatening to harm Obama and using the mail to make other threats.
In a statement last week, his family said they had not been shown any evidence of the charges against him, but added that Curtis suffers from a long history of mental illness.
Typewritten on yellow paper, the three letters contained the same eight-line message, according to an affidavit from the FBI and the Secret Service filed in court.
"Maybe I have your attention now / Even if that means someone must die," the letters read in part, according to the affidavit. The letters ended: "I am KC and I approve this message."
The initials "KC" led law enforcement officials to ask Wicker's staff if they were aware of any constituents with those initials, and the focus of the investigation then turned to Curtis, the affidavit said.