ABERDEEN — A federal judge has appointed a new lawyer to represent a Mississippi man charged with sending poison-laced letters to President Barack Obama and other officials after two public defenders asked to withdraw from the case.
U.S. District Judge Sharion Aycock appointed Kenneth H. Coghlan to represent James Everett Dutschke of Tupelo on Tuesday.
The ruling came one day after federal public defenders George Lucas and Gregory Park asked the judge to replace them as attorneys over undisclosed conflicts with another client in the public defender’s office.
“As basis for this request, counsel would state that a conflict has become apparent with another client of this office which will require that a different attorney be appointed. The government has been contacted and has no objection to this motion,” Lucas said in the two-page document.
Lucas and Park both said Tuesday that they can’t comment on the reason behind the request.
Dutschke is charged with sending ricin-tainted letters on April 8 to Obama, U.S. Sen. Roger Wicker and Lee County Justice Court Judge Sadie Holland.
Dutschke is scheduled for trial Oct. 7 in U.S. District Court in Aberdeen. Court records show the deadline for reaching a plea agreement is Sept. 23. Monday was the deadline for filing pretrial motions.
Dutschke, a former martial arts instructor, was arrested April 27. He is being held without bond in the Lafayette County jail. He has pleaded not guilty to five counts.
Dutschke is the second person to face charges in the case.
The first, entertainer and Elvis impersonator Paul Kevin Curtis was arrested on April 17, but the charges were dropped six days later when the investigation shifted to Dutschke.
After his arrest, Curtis said he was framed and pointed investigators to Dutschke. The men had met years earlier while both worked for an insurance company owned by Curtis’ brother. Curtis said they had feuded over the years.
Count five of the indictment says Dutschke mailed the letters “to retaliate against and frame Kevin Curtis.”
Dutschke has unsuccessfully run for public offices in Mississippi, such as in 2007 when he challenged Democratic state Rep. Steve Holland, the son of the Mississippi judge who received one of the letters.
You can help your community
Quality, in-depth journalism is essential to a healthy community. The Dispatch brings you the most complete reporting and insightful commentary in the Golden Triangle, but we need your help to continue our efforts. Please consider subscribing to our website for only $2.30 per week to help support local journalism and our community.