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Woman Accused of Sending Obama Ricin Letter to Be Tested

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June 20 (Bloomberg) -- A former actress from Texas accused of sending ricin-laced letters to President Barack Obama and trying to frame her husband for it was detained for 30 days of psychiatric evaluation, according to court records.

Shannon Guess Richardson, 35, asked to be transferred to a federal medical facility instead of released from jail on bond at a hearing today in federal court in Texarkana, Texas, according to a filing by her court-appointed lawyer, Tonda Curry.

Based on mental-status exams conducted since her arrest, Richardson should “undergo a thorough evaluation for a mental disease or defect affecting her competence,” Curry said today in a court filing.

Richardson has been in custody since June 7, when federal agents arrested her on charges of mailing threatening communications to Obama, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and an anti-gun organization affiliated with Bloomberg. The letters were intercepted before they reached the intended recipients.

The case against Richardson is the third in less than two months involving letters with ricin sent to elected officials, including Obama.

Failed Polygraph

Richardson, who is five months pregnant and played a small role in the TV series “The Walking Dead,” initially approached the Federal Bureau of Investigation claiming her husband wanted to poison her. She failed a polygraph exam when she was questioned a second time after agents searched her home and the husband’s car, according to the FBI. She then said her husband coerced her into mailing the letters.

“It’s still the government’s theory that she did this to set up or frame her husband,” Curry said yesterday in a phone interview. “Obviously, we disagree with that theory.”

Richardson is charged only with sending threatening communications, meaning “the words on paper, not the powdery or oily substance” found on the letters, Curry said. “We will not be admitting anything about the ricin –- ordering the beans, making the ricin, anything like that. She’s admitted to the government she was the one who took the letters to the post office.”

Ricin is made from castor beans and has been used experimentally in medicine to kill cancer cells, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta. It’s harmful and potentially fatal if inhaled or ingested.

At today’s hearing before a federal magistrate in Texarkana, Curry presented a letter from medical professionals who have examined Richardson as evidence she needs further evaluation. Prosecutors didn’t oppose the request, according to Curry’s filing.

The mayor of New York is founder and majority owner of Bloomberg LP, the parent company of Bloomberg News.

The case is U.S. v. Richardson, 5:13-mj-00014, 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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