A pregnant Texas actress who told FBI agents her husband had sent ricin-tainted letters to President Barack Obama and New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg was charged Friday with threatening the president.
Shannon Guess Richardson, who had bit parts on The Walking Dead and The Vampire Diaries, made an initial appearance in a Texarkana courtroom after being charged with mailing a threatening communication to the president. She could face up to 10 years in prison if convicted, U.S. attorney’s office spokeswoman Davilyn Walston said.
Richardson, 35, was arrested earlier in the day for allegedly mailing the ricin-laced letters last month. It wasn’t immediately clear if she had an attorney.
FBI agents wearing hazardous material suits were seen going in and out of Richardson’s house on Wednesday in nearby New Boston, about 150 miles northeast of Dallas near the Arkansas and Oklahoma borders. Officials have said the search was initiated after Richardson contacted the FBI and implicated her husband, Nathaniel Richardson.
John Delk, who represents Nathaniel Richardson, told the AP on Thursday that his client had filed for divorce and may have been set up by his wife. He said his client was cooperating with authorities investigating the letters, which were sent last month to Bloomberg, his Washington gun-control group and the White House threatening violence against gun-control advocates.
“There are a lot of factors I’m aware of that indicate (Nathaniel Richardson) was set up in this deal by her,” Delk said.
Delk said his client, a 33-year-old Army veteran, came to him to discuss a potential divorce a year ago and finally hired him on May 6, weeks before the ricin incident came to light. Delk didn’t immediately return messages Friday following the arrest.
Bloomberg issued a statement Friday thanking local and federal law enforcement agencies “for their outstanding work in apprehending a suspect,” saying they worked collaboratively from the outset “and will continue to do so as the investigation continues.”
According to her IMDb résumé, Richardson (under the name Shannon Guess) has had small television roles in The Vampire Diaries and The Walking Dead. She had a minor role in the movie The Blind Side and appeared in an Avis commercial, according to the résumé.
Delk said the Richardsons were expecting their first child in October. Shannon Richardson also has five children ranging in age from 4 to 19 from other relationships, four of whom had been living with the couple in the New Boston home, the attorney said.
The FBI is investigating at least three cases over the past two months in which ricin was mailed to Obama and other public figures. Ricin has been sent to officials sporadically over the years, but experts say that there seems to be a recent uptick and that copycat attacks — made possible by the relative ease of extracting the poison — may be the reason.
If inhaled, ricin can cause respiratory failure, among other symptoms. If swallowed, it can shut down the liver and other organs, resulting in death. The amount of ricin that can fit on the head of a pin is said to be enough to kill an adult if properly prepared. No antidote is available, though researchers are trying to develop one.