A US Navy veteran on Friday was charged with threatening to use a biological toxin as a weapon by sending letters to US President Donald Trump and other leaders containing ground castor beans, the substance from which the poison ricin is derived.
William Clyde Allen, 39, told investigators he wanted the letters to “send a message,” although he did not elaborate, FBI investigators said in documents filed in the US District Court of Utah.
Authorities zeroed in on Allen after finding his return address on at least two of the envelopes, according to the complaint.
The envelopes that tested positive for ricin also had a note that said: “Jack and the missile bean stock powder,” the documents said.
US Attorney for Utah John Huber declined to comment on Allen’s mental state, but said the case is “no laughing matter.”
“When you’re dealing with suspected ricin, this is nothing to trifle with,” Huber said.
During a court hearing on Friday, Allen cried as he told a judge that his wife has a spinal condition and he helps her put on her shoes in the morning.
He smiled at family members and said he had been looking forward to an upcoming general conference of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
He did not enter a plea, and his attorney, Lynn Donaldson, did not comment.
Allen could face up to life in prison if convicted on the biological toxin charge, one of five counts in the complaint.
He was also charged with four counts of making threats through the mail, which carry 10-year sentences.
The envelopes were mailed to the president, FBI Director Christopher Wray, US Secretary of Defense James Mattis and the navy’s top officer, Admiral John Richardson, authorities said.
They were intercepted and no one was hurt.
The FBI said all of the letters tested positive for ricin.
The case is expected to go before a grand jury and Allen could face additional charges at a hearing on Oct. 18.
Allen was arrested on Wednesday at his house in the small city of Logan, Utah.
He told investigators he had purchased castor beans on eBay “in case word war III broke out,” so he could “defend our nation.”
He was being held on a US$25,000 cash-only bond.
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