Texas Woman Charged in Obama Ricin Letter Set for Trial

The Texas woman accused of mailing ricin-laced letters to President Barack Obama and New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg will be held without bail until a bond hearing on Sept. 11. Her trial is set for Oct. 7.

Shannon Guess Richardson, 35, a former actress, pleaded not guilty today to one charge of threatening the U.S. president “with bodily harm” and two charges of mailing threatening communications in federal court in Texarkana, Texas.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Caroline Craven found Richardson is competent to stand trial on the recommendation of a government doctor who evaluated her in prison, according to Lynn Siebel, a deputy in Craven’s court.

Richardson has been detained since her June 7 arrest on suspicion she was involved with the tainted letters.

“She does not contest the competency determination, although that doesn’t address the issue of sanity if we decide to bring it up,” Tonda Curry, Richardson’s lawyer, said in a telephone interview before the hearing.

Richardson originally approached law enforcement officials in late May with purported information implicating her estranged husband in a plot to send ricin-laced letters to Obama, Bloomberg and the head of a gun-control group affiliated with the mayor, according to a criminal complaint filed against her.

Letters Intercepted

She later changed her story to admit typing the labels and mailing the letters under what she claims was coercion by her husband, according to the complaint.

The letters were intercepted before they reached their targets, and no one was injured by the deadly powder. The Federal Bureau of Investigation found castor beans, used to make ricin, and other suspicious materials in the couple’s home in New Boston, near Texarkana, according to the document.

“She’s still not charged with anything related to the ricin,” Curry said. “She’s charged with mailing threatening communications, with the words on paper, not the contents of the letters.”

Nathaniel Richardson, her husband, has filed for divorce and was recently awarded temporary custody of the couple’s son, born four months prematurely while his mother was incarcerated.

The husband has publicly stated that law enforcement has cleared him of suspicion in the ricin-letter plot, the lawyer said.

“But the government has told me that’s in no way true,” Curry said.

Katie Chaumont, a spokeswoman for the FBI’s Dallas-based division, said policy prevented her from commenting on an investigation in progress.

Bloomberg is founder and majority owner of Bloomberg News parent Bloomberg LP.

The case is U.S. v. Richardson, 5:13-cr-00013, U.S. District Court, Eastern District of Texas (Texarkana).

To contact the reporter on this story: Laurel Brubaker Calkins in Houston at laurel@calkins.us.com.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Michael Hytha at mhytha@bloomberg.net.

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