TEXARKANA, Texas (CBSNewYork/AP) — A Texas woman was indicted Friday on charges that she sent ricin-laced letters to President Barack Obama and Mayor Michael Bloomberg in an attempt to frame her estranged husband, federal prosecutors said.
Shannon Richardson, 35, is charged with two counts of mailing a threatening communication and one count of making a threat against the president of the United States, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Texas said in a news release.
Richardson, an actress from New Boston, Texas, was arrested June 7. She is accused of sending the threatening letters in May to Obama, Bloomberg and a third man who heads the mayor’s gun-control group.
Richardson faces up to five years in prison on each of the charges.
The government accused Richardson of mailing the letters and trying to pin the crime on Nathan Richardson, the man she married in 2011. He filed for divorce earlier this month. He’s told the Texarkana Gazette that he contemplated divorce last year but reconsidered when the relationship seemed to improve.
The marriage was at least Shannon Richardson’s third, and she has five children ranging in age from 4 to 19 from other relationships, according to Nathan Richardson’s attorney, John Delk.
A federal judge last week ordered Shannon Richardson to undergo a psychological exam. Curry had requested the exam, saying her client had displayed “a pattern of behavior” that calls into question whether she could assist in her defense.
Authorities have determined that the ricin letters, which threatened violence against gun-control advocates, were mailed from New Boston, about 150 miles northeast of Dallas, or nearby Texarkana and postmarked in Shreveport, La.
According to multiple sources, the letter sent to Bloomberg carried the following threat:
“You will have to kill me and my family before you get my guns. Anyone wants to come to my house will get shot in the face. The right to bear arms is my constitutional, God-given right and I will exercise that right till the day I die. What’s in this letter is nothing compared to what I’ve got planned for you.”
According to a FBI affidavit, Richardson first contacted authorities to implicate her husband in the scheme. But she failed a polygraph exam and investigators found inconsistencies in her story, the document alleges.
Richardson later admitted she mailed the letters but maintained that her husband made her do it, according to the affidavit.
Ricin is a poison found naturally in castor beans, according to the Centers for Disease Control.
“It’s one of the most toxic and deadly substances that you can actually have,” said infectious disease expert Dr. Anthony Fauci. “So the idea of exposing someone to it, where it could actually get into the system, can be really very destructive.”
Symptoms include difficulty breathing, vomiting and redness on the skin depending on how the affected person comes into contact with the poison.
Richardson has had minor roles on television and in films under the name Shannon Guess.
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