The Norman Transcript

Nation/World

July 17, 2014

Texas woman who sent letters laced with ricin gets 18 years

TEXARKANA, Texas — A Texas actress who tried to blame her husband after sending ricin-laced letters to officials including President Barack Obama was sentenced Wednesday to 18 years in prison.

A federal judge gave Shannon Guess Richardson, 36, the maximum sentence under her plea deal on a federal charge of possessing and producing a biological toxin. Richardson was also ordered to pay restitution of about $367,000. She had pleaded guilty to the charge in December.

“I never intended for anybody to be hurt,” she told the court, adding later, “I’m not a bad person; I don’t have it in me to hurt anyone.”

Judge Michael H. Schneider noted that she had put many lives in danger and threatened public officials.

Richardson, who had minor acting roles in film and television including in the series “The Walking Dead” and the movie “The Blind Side,” said she thought security measures would prevent anyone from opening the letters addressed to Obama, then New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Mark Glaze, who at the time was director of Mayors Against Illegal Guns, Bloomberg’s group advocating for tougher gun control.

Prosecutors say Richardson mailed the three letters from New Boston, outside Texarkana, then went to police and claimed that her husband had done it. She was arrested last June. The day before her arrest, Nathan Richardson filed for divorce; it was finalized in January.

Prosecutors say investigators noted inconsistencies in Richardson’s statements. She also acknowledged in a signed plea agreement that she ordered castor beans online and learned how to process them into a substance used to make ricin, a toxin that can cause respiratory failure if inhaled.

She obtained an email address, a PayPal shopping account and a post office box in her husband’s name without his knowledge, according to the document.

On the morning of May 20, 2013, she said she waited for her husband to go to work and then printed the mailing labels.

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