Paul Kevin Curtis: Mississippi man in ricin letter probe released on bond

Paul Kevin Curtis is seen dressed as an Elvis impersonator in this picture taken in 1999. REUTERS/Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal
Paul Kevin Curtis is seen dressed as an Elvis impersonator in this picture taken in 1999. Credit: REUTERS/Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal

A Mississippi man charged with sending toxic letters to President Barack Obama and a U.S. senator was released from jail on Tuesday, the U.S. Marshals Service said.

Paul Kevin Curtis, 45, was released on bond, Jeff Woodfin, chief deputy with the U.S. Marshals Service in Oxford, Mississippi, told Reuters.

His release came as court documents showed that a judge indefinitely postponed a hearing on his detention scheduled for Tuesday, but the charges against Curtis had not been dropped.

The U.S. attorney handling the case, William Chadwick Lamar, declined to comment.

Curtis was arrested last Wednesday at his home in Corinth, Mississippi. He was charged with mailing letters to Obama, U.S. Senator Roger Wicker of Mississippi and a state judge containing a substance that preliminarily tested positive for ricin, a highly lethal poison made from castor beans.

The letters were intercepted by authorities before they reached their destinations.

Over the weekend, investigators searched Curtis’ home, his vehicle and his ex-wife’s home, but failed to find any incriminating evidence, one of his defense lawyers, Christi McCoy, told the Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal.

The poison scare put Washington on edge during the same week the Boston Marathon bombings occurred.

Curtis, known in Mississippi as an Elvis impersonator, was held in the Lafayette County Detention Center prior to his release. He was charged with threatening to harm Obama and using the mail to make other threats.

In a statement last week, his family said they had not been shown any evidence of the charges against him, but added that Curtis suffers from a long history of mental illness.

Type written on yellow paper, the three letters contained the same eight-line message, according to an affidavit from the FBI and the Secret Service filed in court.

“Maybe I have your attention now / Even if that means someone must die,” the letters read in part, according to the affidavit. The letters ended: “I am KC and I approve this message.”

The initials “KC” led law enforcement officials to ask Wicker’s staff if they were aware of any constituents with those initials and the focus of the investigation then turned to Curtis, the affidavit said.

If convicted, Curtis could face maximum penalties of 15 years in prison and $500,000 in fines plus three years of supervised release.

Another of Curtis’ attorneys, Philip Halbert Neilson, said that, although his client was released on bond it was not immediately clear if charges against him would be dropped.

“I think it would be premature for me to say at this time,” Neilson said, when asked whether he anticipated the dropping of charges.

“We’re certainly hoping so and we’re certainly working toward that. We are absolutely certain our client is innocent of all charges.”

Neilson said he and McCoy were planning to hold a news conference later Tuesday.


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