Charges dropped against Elvis impersonator over ricin letters
Lawyers say Paul Kevin Curtis was framed by a longtime enemy
Everett Dutschke stands in the steet and waits for the FBI to arrive and search his home in Tupelo, Mississippi yesterday. Photograph: Thomas Wells/Reuters/Daily Journal
US prosecutors have dropped charges against an Elvis impersonator in Mississippi accused of sending ricin-laced letters to president Barack Obama, a US senator and a state judge, according to court documents.
The surprise decision came hours after Paul Kevin Curtis was released from a Mississippi jail on bond.
Prosecutors said the “ongoing investigation has revealed new information,” but provided no additional details, according to the court order dismissing the charges.
Mr Curtis told reporters he respected Mr Obama. “I would never do anything to pose a threat to him or any other US official,” he said. “I love this country.”
He said he had no idea what ricin was. “I thought they said ‘rice,’ I told them I don’t eat rice,” he said.
Mr Curtis, who is 45 and known in Mississippi as an Elvis impersonator, had been released from jail on bond yesterday after a judge indefinitely postponed a court hearing on his detention. The case was later dismissed “without prejudice,” meaning the charges could be potentially reinstated if warranted.
Lawyers for Mr Curtis said he had been framed by a longtime enemy, J. Everett Dutschke, a martial arts instructor from Tupelo.
FBI agents raided Mr Dutschke’s house but did not immediately charge him. Dutschke, reached by phone, denied involvement but did not elaborate Curtis thanked God and his lawyer for his release. A father of four, he has a long history of mental illness, including bipolar disorder, his friends and family have said.
Mr Dutschke is “cooperating fully” with the FBI, his attorney Lori Nail Basham told the Northeastern Mississippi Daily Journal.
Ms Basham said Mr Dutschke and Mr Curtis were acquaintances and believed the two men had known each other for several years.
Deborah Madden, an FBI spokeswoman in Jackson, Mississippi, declined to comment. Phone calls to a number listed for Dutschke and his attorney went unanswered.
In 2007, Dutschke ran unsuccessfully as a Republican candidate against Stephen Holland, an incumbent Democratic state representative from the Tupelo area. Mr Holland’s mother, Sadie, is the judge to whom one of the ricin-tainted letters was mailed this month.
During the state campaign Mr Dutschke produced a video titled “The Aliens are Coming,” attacking his opponent for being soft on immigration, which stated that Mr Holland was a “friend” of the September 11th hijackers.
Christi McCoy, Mr Curtis’s attorney, told CNN she believed her client had been framed.
“I do believe that someone who was familiar and is familiar with Kevin just simply took his personal information and did this to him,” she told CNN. “It is absolutely horrific that someone would do this.”