A federal grand jury has indicted a nuclear engineer for threatening to kill President George W. Bush as part of a hoax in which dozens of letters containing a white powder were sent through the mail, the US attorney's office said.
Michael Lee Braun, 51, was indicted on Wednesday on one count of threatening the president, one count of sending threatening communications to a Sacramento radio talk show host and eight counts of providing false information and perpetrating hoaxes, the US attorney's office said in a statement on Thursday.
Each charge carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison.
The March 7 letter to Bush and a June 6 letter to KFBK-AM talk show host Tom Sullivan both contained a white powder. The letters said the substance was "poison" and a "death powder" but it later turned out to be baking soda.
Braun was arrested days before Bush appeared at an Oct. 3 fundraiser for US Congressman John Doolittle, a California Republican. FBI agents said that they watched him mail two letters to the country club that was hosting the event.
The FBI said the letters contained threats to Bush, Doolittle and Vice President Dick Cheney.
Those letters are included in the eight hoax charges, along with letters to former US Congressman Doug Ose, another California Republican; the American Association of Retired Persons; and three Sacramento hotels.
The FBI said that Braun was suspected of sending 51 such letters since shortly after the 2001 terrorist attacks, at various times also threatening First Lady Laura Bush and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld.
Such letters "instill fear in the community and waste valuable emergency response resources," said US Attorney McGregor Scott in announcing the indictment. "These cases are taken seriously and will be prosecuted."
Braun worked as a nuclear engineer at the now-closed Rancho Seco nuclear power plant south of Sacramento since 1984 while also practicing law part-time, the FBI said.
He was released Oct. 5 on a US$400,000 bond.