A letter meant for Wicker, center, tested positive for the deadly poison ricin Tuesday.
“A series of unrelated incidents — the bombing in Boston; ricin discovered in mail by our postal personnel; another letter, of similar content intercepted, but intended for the President; the capture of a man with a gun on the east front [Tuesday]; and the information that suspect packages in a few state offices — contributed to a bit of anxiety,” Gainer wrote in a Wednesday night memo.
The Hart and Russell Senate Office buildings were shut down for part of Wednesday as Capitol Police investigated “suspicious packages.” Scared staffers clamored for more information that couldn’t be immediately provided and reporters on deadline added fuel to the fire.
“Our media partners, bless their inquisitive hearts, were also doing their jobs as they too were trying to get it right,” Gainer wrote to the Senate community. “You were flooded with much information of mixed value, which sometimes doesn’t seem quite sufficient.
“The bottom line of this multifaceted event was a positive one,” he continued. “The packages were not dangerous; they contained nothing hazardous; and the person of interest was, while interesting, not particularly harmful although terribly disruptive. He was admonished but released. (This is the price of an open campus).”
But, Gainer concluded, “Failure to discover the suspect package can be catastrophic. After this week, is there any question of that?”
There were reasons to be antsy. Ricin is, after all, a deadly substance.
And in a sworn affidavit by FBI Special Agent Brandon M. Grant, it was revealed that the letter Curtis sent to Wicker was threatening.
“No one wanted to listen to me before,” reads the note, according to Grant’s statement. The message is arranged much like a poem, with line breaks, and is at times lacking punctuation. “There are still ‘Missing Pieces’/Maybe I have your attention now/Even if that means someone must die./This must stop./To see a wrong and not expose it,/is to become a silent partner to its continuance/I am KC and I approve this message.”
Curtis was scheduled to appear at the U.S. District Courthouse in Oxford, Miss., on Thursday and is facing charges of “knowingly depositing for conveyance in the mail and for delivery from any post office any letter, paper, writing or document containing threats to take the life of or inflict bodily harm upon the President of the United States” and “knowingly depositing and causing to be delivered by the Postal Service according to the directions thereon, communications addressed to other persons, and containing a threat to injure the person of others.”
If convicted, Curtis will face maximum possible penalties of 15 years imprisonment, $500,000 in fines and three years of supervised release.
Daniel Newhauser and Steven T. Dennis contributed to this report.
Vice President Joe Biden waits to conduct a mock swearing-in ceremony with Sen. Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii, in the Capitol's Old Senate Chamber, December 2, 2014. Schatz was sworn in to serve the remainder of his term since he was appointed to the seat after Sen. Daniel Inouye, D-Hawaii, passed away.