Ricin Possession Charges Dropped for Technicality
Sometimes, a criminal case falls through the cracks.
It shouldn't happen, and everybody knows that -- especially when it's a terrible crime. That's what a federal judge had to deal with in Georgia.
A white supremacist had been charged with possession of ricin -- a biological toxin that can kill you just by inhaling it. But the judge dismissed the case because lawmakers "inexplicably" took it off the dangerous toxin list.
William Christopher Gibbs was charged in 2017 after he went to an emergency room fearing he had been exposed to ricin. Police cordoned off his car while a hazardous materials unit retrieved a bottle that contained the toxin.
Terrorists have long used ricin because it is inexpensive and easy to make. The White House recently got a scare when authorities suspected two envelopes contained the poison.
It turned out to be a false alarm, but Gibbs was the real deal. He reportedly associated online with a white supremacist group that "preaches racial warfare and holds violent racist and anti-Semitic beliefs."
Gibbs was staring down prosecutors when he got the news. Judge Richard Story had to dismiss the case because of a technical error.
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution called it "a regulatory failure." Changes in federal law in 2005 and regulatory edits in 2005 "inexplicably excluded ricin from the criminal charge of possession of illegal biological toxins known as 'select agents.'"
Heidi Beirich, director of the Southern Poverty Law Center's Intelligence Project, said federal lawmakers should have been on top of it. She could hardly believe the case against Gibbs was dismissed.
"So we've got a serious white supremacist with a deadly toxin who is going to get away with it?" she said.
The Georgia legislature added ricin to its banned list after his arrest, but he could not be charged ex post facto.
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