By Jim Forsyth
SAN ANTONIO, Tx. (Reuters) - An actress who tried to blame her husband for sending ricin-laced letters to U.S. President Barack Obama and New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg has been arrested in Texas after confessing to sending the letters herself, prosecutors said.
The actress, 35-year-old Shannon Rogers Guess Richardson of New Boston, Texas, was charged on Friday in U.S. District Court in the Eastern District of Texas with mailing a threatening communication. She faces up to 10 years in prison if convicted, according to federal prosecutors.
Richardson, who has played minor roles on TV programs including The Walking Dead, could not immediately be reached for comment. A lawyer for Richardson's husband, who the FBI had initially investigated, did not immediately respond to a call seeking comment. The couple lives in New Boston, a small town about 150 miles northeast of Dallas, near the borders of Oklahoma and Arkansas.
The letters, sent last month, made threatening references related to the U.S. debate on gun control. A third letter, also containing ricin, was sent to the director of Mayors Against Illegal Guns, a group founded by Bloomberg that lobbies for stricter gun laws.
The letters read, in part, "You will have to kill me and my family before you get my guns. Anyone wants to come to my house will get shot in the face," according to court papers filed on Friday.
The woman had told investigators in Shreveport, Louisiana, that her husband, Nathaniel David Richardson, had sent the letters and also said she was afraid that he would try to poison her, according to court papers.
When investigators questioned her husband, he denied any role in sending the letters and blamed his wife. On Thursday, she confessed to investigators that she mailed the letters, according to court papers.
Emergency workers who came in contact with the letters initially showed minor symptoms of ricin exposure, officials said.
"Fortunately, neither Mayor Bloomberg, President Obama, the director of the Mayors Committee Against Illegal Guns, nor those who processed the ricin-laced mail incurred serious illness or injury," said New York Police Commissioner Ray Kelly in a statement praising the arrest.
Ricin is a lethal poison found naturally in castor beans, but it takes a deliberate act to convert it into a biological weapon. Ricin can cause death within 36 to 72 hours from exposure to an amount as small as a pinhead. No known antidote exists.
A computer owned by the Richardsons showed signs of searches on recent ricin letters sent from Tupelo, Mississippi, which police believe to be an unrelated incited.
A Mississippi martial arts instructor earlier this week pleaded not guilty to charges he sent ricin-laced letters to Obama and other public officials.
(Writing by Scott Malone; Editing by Paul Thomasch, Phil Berlowitz and David Gregorio)