Federal agents have arrested a Washington state man in connection with two ricin-tainted letters.
A grand jury indicted Matthew Ryan Buquet on Wednesday in connection with mailing a threatening letter to U.S. District Judge Fred Van Sickle on May 14, according to The Associated Press. Preliminary tests showed the presence of ricin. A second tainted letter was addressed to the Spokane post office, says the American Postal Workers Union. Post Office managers told workers they didn't believe employees were at risk, because "the substance involved was not in a form that could be inhaled or otherwise readily ingested."
According to The Spokesman-Review, Buquet is a 37-year-old janitor who has registered as a sex offender following a 1998 conviction for "indecent liberties." Van Sickle is a senior federal judge serving in the Eastern District of Washington State, with offices in Spokane. The AP says that "a search of federal court records turned up no indication that Buquet had ever appeared before Van Sickle or had any connection to the judge."
On Saturday, law enforcement officers searched Buquet's apartment, according to the Spokesman-Review, which adds that some of them wore hazardous material protection suits to ward off possible contamination. No arrests were made at the time.
Buquet pleaded not guilty Wednesday and was assigned a public defender, says KXLY-TV.
Ricin is highly toxic, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. There's no known antidote. Buquet's arrest comes about a month after ricin-laced letters were mailed to President Obama, Sen. Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) and a Mississippi state judge. A Mississippi man has been charged in that case.
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