The US federal government has dropped charges against a man suspected of sending ricin-laced letters to several officials, including President Obama. “New information” convinced investigators to follow other leads.
The Mississippi resident, Paul Kevin Curtis, was acquitted of charges on Tuesday, not long after being released from a local jail on bond. Further investigation had led the federal government away from Curtis and toward the real perpetrator, according to his attorney.
“I do believe that someone who was familiar and is familiar with [Curtis] just simply took his personal information and did this to him,” attorney Christi McCoy told television broadcaster CNN.
“It is absolutely horrific that someone would do this,” said McCoy.
Curtis expressed relief at the decision.
“This past week has been a nightmare,” Curtis told reporters.
Last week as tensions ran high across the US in the wake of the Boston Marathon bombings, several officials received letters which tested positive for the poison ricin. Each contained the message “I am KC and I approve this message.”
Mississippi Senator Roger Wicker and Tupelo Judge Sadie Holland both received the toxic envelopes, as did President Barack Obama.
Authorities arrested Curtis on April 17. It was unclear whether evidence – beyond the suspect’s initials – had led investigators to the 45-year old Elvis impersonator.
“This past week has been a nightmare,” Curtis told reporters in reaction to government’s decision to drop the charges.
“I would never do anything to pose a threat to [President Obama] or any other US official,” he said. “I love this country.”
There were no immediate comments available from the officials who had been targeted.
Initial reports indicated that authorities were investigating a second Mississippi man, J. Everett Dutschke, who had had a publicly-known dispute with the Holland family.
kms/jm (AFP, Reuters, dpa)