The letters came in the mail, and they bore a chilling message:
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 right and I will excersice [sic] that right til the day I die. whats in the letter is nothing compared to what ive got planned for you.
The first one was addressed to Michael Bloomberg, the most visible face of the anti-gun movement, but it was intercepted at a postal facility that screens mail for New York celebrities. (No one will ever poison one of them, just an expendable postal worker, the new Ruling Class equivalent of Cleopatra’s food taster). Within a few days an identical letter with an identical date and postmark came to Mark Glaze, the guy who does the day-to-day gruntwork of trying to disarm America for his boss, Michael Bloomberg, at his lobbying firm The Raben Group, 1640 Rhode Island Avenue NW, Washington DC. Glaze was not covered by postal special treatment at the time, but the envelope was opened, as all mail to Washington lobbyists is, by an expendable intern.
Those few individuals who seriously study criminal communications, like these letters, can often utter an opinion with some degree of confidence about whether the letter is written by an actual idiot, or by an intelligent and educated person impersonating an idiot. These letters do show deliberate misspellings and usage “errors” of the type used in such an impersonation.
A third letter with slightly variant text, and with a curious absence of spaces after most periods, but with the same Louisiana postmark was sent to the President. It read (bold text is added variation from the Bloomberg/Glaze letters, strikethrough is material deleted that was in those letters):
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.I served in the united states army and because your muslim ass will probly never be able to retire.I will have to work until my last breath.I deserve better and so do my wife and kiddos.I will take care of this myself and make sure you wont be runnin this country in the ground any further.
The right to bear arms is my constitutional right and I will excersice [sic] that right til the day I die. What’s in the letter is nothing compared towhat ive got plannedin store for you mr president.
All three letters tested positive for ricin, using a somewhat insensitive field test. No one was exposed to lethal levels of the toxin (lethal levels being extremely small), fortunately. But the publicity over the letters wasn’t what the putative sender might have expected. Glaze, Bloomberg, and Obama, and their partisans and the media (but we repeat ourselves!) received the news with something approximating delight. The letters were proof that gun owners were murderous, insurrectionist sickos, fully deserving the IRS audits and whatever other miseries federal authorities could bring down on them. Editorials and “news analyses” (i.e., the New York Times equivalent of the front-page editorial formerly favored by Pravda pre-1992) piled imprecations on the presumed facilitator and enabler of this act of terrorism: the NRA, naturally.
Meanwhile, the actual investigation took another turn.
Postal inspectors have access to some of the coolest new tools in the Patriot Act toolbox. Every piece of mail is imaged, databased, and stored forever (just like the source, destination, duration, and location of every phone call, apparently). The Bloomberg and Obama letters were quickly tracked through a Shreveport postal center, back to a bunch of mail that came in through New Boston and Texarkana, Texas.
At this time, a providential break in the case occurred: a New Boston woman named Shannon Richardson walked in to the FBI in Shreveport, LA, and fingered her husband, Nathaniel, as the mailer. Nathaniel was dangerous. He had lots of guns. He didn’t like the President. He was a combat wounded veteran, and he was employed in the defense industrial base (these are all things the FBI has been directed to consider warning signs). The FBI swarmed him at work.
To their shock and surprise, Nathaniel Richardson was cooperative. He said his marriage was on the rocks, and said anything Shannon told them was probably bullshit. Apparently one of the many stressors in their failed marriage was their disparate attitude towards guns. He consented to a search of his vehicle.
The search found a dozen castor beans in the trunk of his silver Maxima. Castor beans are the essential source of ricin. Still, they didn’t take him into custody. They did tell him not to leave town.
Meanwhile, other agents conducted a limited consent search of the Richardson home, finding and taking with Shannon’s consent numerous electronic gadgets that let them establish that Nathaniel’s computer had indeed been used to order castor beans and items for preparing ricin (lye and syringes). Shannon’s cell phone, which she also permitted them to examine, had nothing suspicious on it.
At this point, the FBI had a pretty good suspicion that the ricin letters originated at the Richardson home, but they had no real proof either spouse was guilty — each fingered the other, and the physical and computer forensics didn’t close the suspicion gap on either one.
They chose to reinterview Shannon, and they fluttered her. The polygraph examiner indicated that she was deceptive when denying knowledge of the castor beans or ricin. At this point she changed her story. Now she said she had known that Nathaniel sent the letters, so, wanting him to be apprehended, she took steps to make sure he was caught by spreading some of his castor beans around. (“Modified limited hangout” perhaps?)
Both Richardsons consented to a thorough search of their home, and this time the FBI hit pay dirt: while on their first visit, they’d taken only electronics, this time they found castor beans, syringes with suspicious fluid, and various samples that tested positive for ricin. (Interestingly, the documents released so far do not indicate that the agents found or seized firearms).
Meanwhile, the forensic examination of the Richardsons’ computers bore further fruit. Three files were generated on Shannon’s computer, but printed on Nathaniel’s. They were:
- obama.docx — three mailing labels: to Bloomberg, Obama and Glaze.
- Muslimbastard.docx — the letter to President Obama, quoted above.
- guns.docx — various other quasi-literate letters that served to incriminate Nathaniel.
The printing, the mailing, the ordering of the castor beans and the data searches were all timestamped in the systems of the computers. At each of these times, Nathaniel had the perfect alibi: he was clocked in at work at Red River Army Depot, where his co-workers confirmed that he had been there, and where he had no computer access whatsoever.
Shannon Richardson, meanwhile, had emerged as an interesting character. She was pregnant with a child, presumably sired by Nathaniel, but had five other children and several other failed marriages behind her. She was an aging actress (she uses the name Shannon Guess for film work; IMDB says she’s 35 but she looks older) who has struggled to find work in the youth-obsessed industry. Her best-known recent turn was as a zombie in a TV show, not exactly a thespian career milestone. And — oh yeah. She was a bitter opponent of gun rights.
It was time for the FBI to talk to Shannon Richardson again, and on D-Day, June 6th, they interviewed her on neutral ground, in a Mt Pleasant, Texas, hotel. Shown some of the evidence, she made a further confession, if still only a partial one: yes, she’d received the ricin ingredients, yes, she’d printed the mailing labels, and yes, she’d mailed the letters.
And, oh yeah, she had known the letters had ricin in them.
But it was all Nathaniel’s fault! He’d forced her, you see. That was her third, and latest story, and it incriminated her even as she insisted she was an innocent victim all along.
That was enough for the FBI. The next morning, June 7th, SA James Spiropoulos was in front of US Magistrate Judge Caroline Craven, with an affidavit setting out most of the above, and asking for an arrest warrant. Judge Craven signed. The only charge in the arrest affidavit was 18 USC 876(c), a general prohibition on sending threats of kidnapping or injury through the mails. Expect further charges.
Frankly, we could have told the Richardsons long ago that they were not a match: Nathaniel is a MacBook Pro user, and Shannon is PC. Not that she’ll be online for a while.
Meanwhile, when you don’t see retractions or apologies from Bloomberg, Glaze, Obama and about two hundred editorial pages, don’t be shocked. Indeed, expect the media to keep referring to this crime as one committed by pro-gunners, and inspired by the NRA.
And remember that Bloomberg, Glaze, Obama and the media were all excited about the prospect of prison for a man who now appears to be innocent.
Here’s a copy of the arrest affidavit.
And… Nathaniel Richardson filed for divorce on Thursday. No word on whether his grounds are “crazy &$#*%!! tried to get me whacked by an FBI raid or thrown in the jug forever” but that’s a good place for his attorneys to start.
Update II, the morning after:
Magne takk to the Professor for the Instalanche. So that’s where all these first-time commenters came from. Welcome! Sorry we can’t answer your very reasonable question about Shannon’s gun “issues” just yet. Still, if you came for the arrest affidavit, we hope you’ll stay for the review of Chris Kyle’s new book that’s going up at 1100R.