J. Everett Dutschke — Mississippi taekwondo instructor, blues singer, failed political candidate, and alleged child molester — had his first day in court Monday morning after being charged with possession of the poison ricin.
After Dutschke’s initial appearance, his public defender, George Lucas, told TPM it was too soon to discuss how they might respond to the charges against him. “I really can’t at this stage,” Lucas said when asked what shape the defense might take. “It’s too early, we’ve only had the complaint for a few hours.”Court records show Dutschke appeared in court for about eight minutes at approximately 9:15 AM (CT). As of this writing, the complaint against him remains sealed. According to a statement from the U.S. Attorney’s office, Dutschke is being charged with “knowingly developing, producing, stockpiling, transferring, acquiring, retaining and possessing a biological agent, toxin and delivery system, for use as a weapon, to wit: ricin, and with attempting, threatening and conspiring to do the same.”
While the charges seem clearly related to the letters tainted with ricin that were mailed to President Barack Obama and other officials, it is not yet clear if Dutschke has been specifically charged with mailing the letters. The Justice Department press release announcing the charges over the weekend made no reference to those letters, but did say: “The public is reminded to be vigilant in alerting any suspicious letters or activity to the appropriate authorities.”
Dutschke is facing a maximum penalties of life imprisonment, a $250,000 fine and 5 years of supervised release.
Investigators initially focused on an Elvis impersonator named Paul Kevin Curtis in the case to similarities between the letters and his prior writings. Charges against Curtis were dismissed last Tuesday and both Curtis and his attorneys suggested Dutschke may have attempted to frame him after a long-running feud between the two men that started online.
Neither investigators nor prosecutors have commented publicly on whether Dutschke framed Curtis. The U.S. attorney’s office have not responded to multiple calls from TPM.
Since last week, federal agents have searched Dutschke’s home, his martial arts studio, and the home of one of his students. Dutschke has denied any involvement in the case.
The ricin-tainted letters were sent to Obama, Sen. Roger Wicker (R-MS), and a Mississippi Justice Court judge named Sadie Holland, who is the mother of one of Dutschke’s former political rivals. Dutschke is also currently facing multiple charges of fondling for an alleged incident that Lee County sheriff has said involved a 7-year-old girl at his martial arts studio. His attorney in the child molestation case, Lori Basham, has not responded to multiple requests for comment.
After Dutschke showed up in court Monday morning, NBC’s Pete Williams appeared on Andrea Mitchell Reports and said an unnamed “law enforcement official” told him that, in addition to Dutschke’s many other ventures, he’s also a “Wayne Newton impersonator.” Lucas said he does not know whether or not his client impersonates the Vegas legend.
“I have no earthly idea about that,” Lucas said when asked about Williams’ report. “I don’t know that I’ve ever heard of a Wayne Newton impersonator before. … I know nothing about that whatsoever.”