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Ohio Man Convicted of Possessing Ricin, Lying to FBI

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By Jonathan R. Tung, Esq. on November 16, 2015 6:01 AM

An Ohio man was convicted of possessing weaponized ricin with intent to use it as a weapon in a rather dramatic suicide plot -- a conviction upheld by the Sixth Circuit yesterday.

Readers will recall that ricin was the favorite murder toxin of choice by the now loved and infamous Walter White of Breaking Bad fame. The amount that Levenderis had refined was enough to kill 250 Tucos or Gus Frings.

Ant Poison, But Also People Poison

Jeff Boyd Levenderis, 58, of Akron Ohio was found guilty of possessing weapon grade ricin and also for making false statements to the FBI. Back in 2000, Levenderis found instructions for making ricin on the Internet and produced a small quantity, keeping it in a coffee can at the back of his freezer for years. A decade later, Levenderis became ill and a friend agreed to help Levenderis maintain his house. That friend eventually found the can of poison and both men searched for a means of disposing of the deadly tin. After they contacted the local fire department, the FBI gave Levenderis' friend a call. When the FBI visited Levenderis at his nursing home, he claimed the substance inside the tin was ant poison.

The Dramatic Suicide Plot

It was only a matter of time before the truth came out. Levenderis did not actually intend to ingest the ricin to kill himself, but to use it as a toxic repellent to keep first responders at bay while he set fire to his house and burned himself alive. His plan included hanging parcels of the toxin in the doorways while the structure burned to the ground. Additionally, he considered using the poison on his stepfather and as a means of threatening his cousin.

The Sixth Circuit Approves

At trial, a jury found Levenderis guilty of possession of ricin and for lying to the FBI. The judge took pity of Levenderis and noted in the opinion that Levenderis was not equipped, given his health, to "carry out a terrorist attack even if he intended to."

The Sixth Circuit affirmed and clarified another point. It distinguished the facts at bar from the facts of a 2011 SCOTUS decision, Bond v. U.S. There, a jealous wife sought to exact revenge on her husband's lover by spreading corrosive chemicals on her mailbox and doorknobs. The three-judge Sixth Circuit panel said that, unlike in the present set of facts, Bond's actions did not constitute a "chemical attack" because the injury suffered amounted to "nothing more than a minor thumb burn." Levenderis, on the other hand, intended to use ricin in such a way that it would present a great potential harm not only to public servants, but to the public in general.

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