TEXARKANA, Texas (AP) — Shannon Richardson had been married to her husband less than two years when she went to authorities and told them her suspicions: He was the one who had mailed ricin-laced letters to President Barack Obama and New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg threatening violence against gun-control advocates.
When investigators looked closer, they reached a different conclusion: It was the 35-year-old pregnant actress who had sent the letters, and she tried to frame her estranged husband in a bizarre case of marital conflict crossing with bioterrorism.
Those allegations are detailed in court documents filed Friday as Richardson was arrested and charged with mailing a threatening communication to the president. The federal charge carries up to 10 years in prison, U.S. attorney’s office spokeswoman Davilyn Walston said.
Richardson, a mother of five who has played bit roles on television and in movies, is accused of mailing the ricin-laced letters to the White House, to Bloomberg and to the mayor’s Washington gun-control group last month.
Richardson’s court-appointed attorney, Tonda Curry, said there was no intention to harm anyone and noted that it’s common knowledge that mail is checked before it reaches the person to whom these letters were addressed.
“From what I can say, based on what evidence I’ve seen, whoever did this crime never intended for ricin to reach the people to which the letters were addressed,” Curry said.
According to an FBI affidavit, Richardson contacted authorities on May 30 and implicated her husband, Nathaniel Richardson. She described finding small, brown beans with white speckles — a description matching the key ingredient in ricin, castor beans — at the couple’s home in New Boston, Texas. She also told investigators that she had found a sticky note on her husband’s desk with addresses for Bloomberg and Obama, the affidavit said.
But she later failed a polygraph test, the document said, and investigators looking into her story found numerous inconsistencies. Among them: Nathaniel Richardson would have been at work when Internet searches tied to the letters were made on the couple’s laptop and when the envelopes containing the letters were postmarked.
Finally, the affidavit says, in an interview with authorities on Thursday, Shannon Richardson admitted that she had received syringes and lye — a caustic chemical used in making ricin — in the mail; that she had printed the labels for the letters; and that she mailed them. However, she insisted her husband typed them and “made her” print and send them, the affidavit says.
No charges have been filed against her husband. His attorney, John Delk, told The Associated Press on Friday that his client was pleased with his wife’s arrest and was working with authorities to prove his innocence.