Ricin letter suspect ordered held without bond, maintains innocence

Ricin letter suspect ordered held without bond, maintains innocence
Shannon Richardson, 35 (Source: Smith Co. Sheriff's Office)
Shannon Richardson, 35 (Source: Smith Co. Sheriff's Office)
"I didn't do this," an emotional Shannon Richardson told reporters today after a detention hearing Wednesday in federal court in Texarkana.
"I didn't do this," an emotional Shannon Richardson told reporters today after a detention hearing Wednesday in federal court in Texarkana.

TEXARKANA, TX (KSLA) - The East Texas woman accused of mailing poison-laced letters to President Barack Obama and others will remain in custody without bond after a hearing in Texarkana federal court Wednesday morning.

Authorities say Shannon Richardson, 35, tried to set up her husband for sending letters laced with ricin to Obama, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and to a leader of the mayor's gun-control group.

She was charged with two counts of mailing a threatening communication and one count of making a threat against the president.

Wednesday's detention hearing came 2 weeks after Richardson was found competent to stand trial. Until that point, she had waived her right to a hearing on the matter.

During the hearing Wednesday, prosecutors told Judge Caroline Green that Richardson should remain in custody because she allegedly committed a crime of violence, is a flight risk and could obstruct or attempt to obstruct justice. It was also pointed out that all of Richardson's adult children are out of state and that she no longer has family ties to the area.

Richardson's court-appointed attorney Tonda Curry argued that her client does not have a criminal history, and said that Richardson wanted to tell the court that she would comply with any conditions or combination of conditions if they would let her out on bail, including wearing an ankle monitor, turning in her driver's license and reporting in as often as required.

Richardson appeared to be upset and crying, nodding as Curry relayed her message to the judge.

Curry went on to point out that President Obama did not open the letter addressed to him, saying that she "clearly wasn't trying to harm him." Instead, Curry said,  it was a poorly-thought out way to solve a domestic problem, if she did it at all.

The prosecutor pointed out that, in addition to President Obama and Mayor Bloomberg, a third letter was sent to a private citizen who also could have been seriously injured. Mark Blaze, the director of Bloomberg's Washington, DC organization Mayors Against Illegal Guns opened that letter and came in contact with the potentially deadly poison, but showed no symptoms.

Prosecutors also pointed out that the president's mail is opened by mail handlers, who also could have been hurt.

Judge Craven ultimately sided with prosecutors, saying she had considered all of the factors. Craven called Richardson a serious flight risk because of her lack of family ties and her unemployment and cited the weight of the evidence against her and the fact that she was pregnant and had children in the house while all of this was going on.

Richardson gave birth prematurely to a boy in July while in custody. Nathaniel Richardson has since filed for divorce from the aspiring actress. In August, a judge granted him temporary custody of the child.

Nathan Richardson, who was not in court for Wednesday's hearing, has moved back into the New Boston home he shared with his wife before her tip brought federal agents to their door on May 30.

In court Wednesday, Curry maintained Richardson's innocence, something that Richardson herself expressed following the hearing as she left the courthouse in the custody of U.S. Marshals. "I'm not guilty," she told reporters. "I didn't do this. I wouldn't put my children in danger."

Authorities will not disclose where she is being held, but Richardson wore a Bowie County Correctional Center jumpsuit and remained handcuffed and shackled during Wednesday's detention hearing.

She's due back in court for a pre-trial hearing in early October.

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