The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

State and Nation

April 24, 2013

Mississippi men's feud looms over ricin probe

(Continued)

Hal Neilson, one of the attorneys for Curtis, has said the defense gave authorities a list of people who may have had a reason to hurt Curtis, and that Dutschke's name came up. Efforts to reach Curtis, his lawyers and his brother were unsuccessful on Wednesday.

Both men say they have met Wicker, and they each have a connection to Holland.

Authorities say the letters were mailed April 8, but the one sent to Holland was the only one to make it into the hands of an intended target. Her son, Democratic state Rep. Steve Holland of Plantersville, said his mother did a "smell test" of the envelope and a substance in it irritated her nose. The judge was not sickened by what authorities say was a crude form of the poison, which is derived from castor beans.

Judge Holland has declined to comment on the case.

She was presiding judge in a case in which Curtis was accused of assaulting a Tupelo attorney in 2003. Holland sentenced Curtis to six months in the county jail. He served only part of the sentence, according to his brother.

Running as a Republican, Dutschke lost a lopsided election to Steve Holland in 2007, and observers say the judge publicly chastised Dutschke at a political rally that year.

Brandon Presley, Mississippi's northern district public service commissioner and a distant cousin of Elvis Presley, attended the 2007 political rally in Verona. He told The Associated Press on Wednesday that he remembers Dutschke giving a "militant" speech with personal and professional attacks on Steve Holland.

Presley, also a Democrat, said he doesn't recall details of the speech — just the tone of it, and the crowd's reaction.

"I just remember everybody's jaw dropping," Presley said.

Dutschke said his speech included sharp criticism of Steve Holland's record in public office.

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