Trial delay sought in Mississippi ricin case

AP News
Posted: Sep 13, 2013 10:04 PM

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — A lawyer asked a federal judge on Friday to delay the October trial of a Mississippi man charged with sending poison-laced letters to President Barack Obama and other officials.

Kenneth Coghlan filed the motion in the federal case of James Everett Dutschke, a former martial arts instructor from Tupelo. Dutschke is charged with sending ricin-tainted letters on April 8 to Obama, U.S. Sen. Roger Wicker and Lee County Justice Court Judge Sadie Holland.

Coghlan said in his motion that he needs more time to prepare for trial. He was appointed to the case Wednesday after two federal public defenders asked to withdraw as Dutschke's lawyers.

George Lucas and Gregory Park asked the judge to replace them over undisclosed conflicts with another client in the public defender's office. Lucas and Park have said they can't comment on the reason.

Dutschke is currently scheduled for trial Oct. 7 in U.S. District Court in Aberdeen.

He was arrested April 27 and is being held without bond in the Lafayette County jail.

He has pleaded not guilty to five counts and denies sending the letters. He faces up to life in prison, if convicted of the most serious charge.

Dutschke is the second person to face charges in the case.

The first, entertainer and Elvis impersonator Paul Kevin Curtis, was arrested on April 17, but the charges were dropped six days later when the investigation shifted to Dutschke.

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After his arrest, Curtis said he was framed and pointed investigators to Dutschke. The men had met years earlier while both worked for an insurance company owned by Curtis' brother. Curtis said they had feuded over the years.

Count five of the indictment says Dutschke mailed the letters "to retaliate against and frame Kevin Curtis."

Dutschke has unsuccessfully run for public offices in Mississippi, such as in 2007 when he challenged Democratic state Rep. Steve Holland, the son of the Mississippi judge who received one of the letters.