Five days after he was identified and arrested for allegedly mailing ricin-laced envelopes to President Obama, Senator Roger Wicker, and Mississippi judge Sadie Holland — and one day after FBI agents failed to find any ricin-making equipment in his house — Mississippi resident and Elvis impersonator Paul Kevin Curtis has been released from custody. (The charges against him, however, have not been dropped.) The Associated Press reports that Curtis, who maintained his innocence to federal investigators, was freed on Tuesday morning after a scheduled hearing was delayed for 90 minutes and eventually cancelled, after which the chief deputy U.S. Marshals Service declined to specify whether Curtis's release carried any conditions. (According to ABC News, Curtis was released on bond for an unknown amount.) When asked about the release Tuesday afternoon, Sen. Harry Reid said there was "alleged ricin incident" at Joint Base Anacostia-Bolling in Washington — just days after there was reportedly "white substance" at a base in Virginia.
Curtis's release is the latest turn in the increasingly unpredictable FBI investigation into the ricin envelopes, which tested positive multiple times for the fast-acting poison. Given the lack of hard evidence against Curtis, the FBI is reportedly investigating the possibility that Curtis was framed by someone who carried a grudge against him. Mailing poisonous envelopes to Washington, D.C. seems like an unlikely way to frame someone, but Curtis's lawyer, Christi McCoy, suggested exactly that scenario during her testimony:
McCoy said in court that someone may have framed Curtis, suggesting that a former business associate of Curtis' brother, a man with whom Curtis had an extended exchange of angry emails, may have set him up.
The main person being fingered in this framing plot appears to be a Mississippi martial arts instructor named J. Everett Dutschke, who supposedly feuded with Curtis after the latter uploaded a certificate indicating his membership to Mensa, the high IQ organization, to his MySpace page. The Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal reported on Monday that FBI agents had spoken to Dutschke before searching his home in connection to the ricin investigation. "I wasn't going to be pulled into his fantasy world," Dutschke told the paper, after admitting that he met Curtis in 2010.
Still, some of the circumstantial evidence against Curtis seems damning. Curtis reportedly posted the quote "To see a wrong and not expose it, is to become a silent partner to its continuance" to Facebook on April 12. The letters mailed to the President, Senator Wicker, and Judge Holland all contained the same quote, and were postmarked on April 8. That, and his wife called the police on him in 2007, "to report that her husband was extremely delusional, anti-government and felt the government was spying on him with drones." None of this adds up to a conviction, of course — or apparently an arrest. But it does make for an increasingly strange investigation that probably won't end anytime soon.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.