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Deadly ricin was on a mortar and pestle found in the Quebec apartment of a Canadian woman arrested for allegedly sending a threatening, poison-laced letter to U.S. President Donald Trump, a New York court was told Monday.
Pascale Ferrier was also carrying a loaded semi-automatic handgun, a knife and a backpack stuffed with 294 rounds of ammunition, a stun gun, pepper spray, a collapsible baton and false U.S. identification when she was arrested on Sept. 20 crossing into the United States from Canada, U.S. prosecutors allege.
“She was loaded for bear,” said Assistant U.S. Attorney Timothy Lynch, arguing in a Buffalo, N.Y., courtroom why she should remain in custody pending her transfer to face trial in Washington, D.C.
“After she was detained, she admitted she had sent ricin to locations in Texas and to the president of the United States,” Lynch said. “It is clear that this defendant has the desire to kill the president of the United States and individuals she feels somehow wronged her in Texas when she was arrested (there) in March 2019.”
U.S. Magistrate Judge H. Kenneth Schroeder, Jr. noted the stark possible outcome of the ricin letter.
“This country has a history of witnessing assassinations and attempted assassinations of the president of the United States, going back to Abraham Lincoln and then William McKinley — here in this very city of Buffalo, N.Y. — the attempted assassination of Ronald Reagan and now the numerous threats that have been made, allegedly by the defendant, against Donald J. Trump.”
He denied her release.
The U.S. Secret Service found a suspicious letter addressed to “Donald J. Trump,” sent with a Canadian stamp to the White House, on Sept. 18, U.S. authorities said. Inside were vivid threats against Trump and a white powder.
“I found a new name for you: ‘The Ugly Tyrant Clown’ I hope you like it. You ruin USA and lead them to disaster,” it said, in part, authorities allege. “I don’t want the next 4 years with you as president. Give up and remove your application for this election.
“So I made a ‘Special Gift’ for you to make a decision,” it allegedly continued. “This gift is in this letter. If it doesn’t work, I’ll find better recipe for another poison, or I might use my gun.”
As police were investigating the letter, Ferrier arrived at the Peace Bridge border crossing between Fort Erie, Ont., and Buffalo, N.Y., and told U.S. border guards she was wanted by the FBI for the ricin letters, Lynch said.
She was immediately arrested.
The FBI asked the RCMP to help with the investigation and last week the Mounties searched an apartment in St-Hubert, Que., a suburb of Montreal.
Court heard Monday that samples of residue found on a mortar and pestle seized from inside the residence tested positive for ricin.
That, Lynch said, suggests she has access to castor beans, from which ricin is derived, and the ability to manufacture the potentially deadly poison.
He said no combination of bail conditions could make it safe to release Ferrier before trial, or stop her from fleeing.
She is a dual citizen of Canada and France, having moved to Canada in 2008 and becoming a Canadian citizen in 2015. She has a passport for both countries and also carried a fake Texas driver’s licence when arrested, which looks identical to another fake driver’s licence she was arrested with in Texas last year.
It can’t be the same one, though, because that one is still in the hands of Texas police, Lynch said. The gun she had at the border was not the same one she had at the time of her Texas arrest either, because that, too, is still with Texas police.
This, Lynch said, means she has access to obtaining false identification and guns.
“Those all indicate her dangerousness to the community as well as to the president of the United States and the individuals in Texas who received similar letters,” Lynch said.
“It appears that the defendant was following up on her threat to the president, that she would come into the United States with her gun. There is no reason to believe, judge, that if this defendant is released she won’t in some way attempt to cause bodily injury or to kill the president or other individuals in the United States.”
This gift is in this letter. If it doesn’t work, I’ll find better recipe for another poison, or I might use my gun
Ferrier pleaded not guilty to the charge of threatening the president of the United States.
Her lawyer, public defender Fonda Kubiak, asked for her release until appearing in Washington, D.C., court, saying she has support from her family, including her son in Quebec and other family in Texas.
She said Ferrier is highly educated and “a software genius.”
“She voluntarily came to the border, said she was the person they were looking for when there hadn’t even been a warrant issued. She wasn’t absconding, she wasn’t avoiding,” Kubiak said.
“That’s not somebody trying to sneak into the country, trying to avoid or evade capture. If she had ill will or intentions, she certainly wouldn’t have come to the border and say ‘here I am.’”
The charges against Ferrier in Texas were dismissed and she was allowed to leave on her own a month later, Kubiak said.
Although the statutory maximum for threatening the president is on the low end of U.S. federal crimes, Ferrier will likely face additional charges, in D.C., in Texas and in Buffalo over the ricin, threats and the gun, ammunition and a false ID.
Sheriff Urbino “Benny” Martinez, of Brooks County Sheriff’s Office in Texas, would like to see her charged for allegedly sending an envelope of ricin to his office, addressed to him.
But for it being accidentally placed on the wrong desk, it could have been a deadly attack, he said.
His administrative assistant opened the envelope, not knowing the danger it held, but did not withdraw the letter from inside, he said. She opens letters to save him time when reading mail. She then directs letters to the various departments under the office’s supervision and this letter — of all letters — was mistakenly placed in the wrong pile.
Instead of landing on Martinez’s desk, it went to the jail.
“If it had been directed to me, I would have grabbed it and opened it up to read,” he said in an interview. Instead, at the jail, it remained undisturbed on a desk in a locked, unlit room until he was told by a U.S. Postal Inspector to find the suspicious letter and turn it over to the FBI.
He wasn’t told there was a toxic poison inside.
He eventually found it, addressed to him, handwritten in pencil.
Police found a connection between Ferrier and the recipients of the other letters sent to Texas — to Mission City Police Chief Robert Dominguez, Hidalgo County Sheriff J.E. “Eddie” Guerra and to three Hidalgo County detention officers. Mission police arrested her last year when she was visiting Texas and jailed her in Hidalgo County under Guerra’s supervision.
She was never arrested by Martinez’s office, he said.
But he does think he knows why he was sent a letter too. At one point, the jail in Hidalgo was full and she was sent to Brooks County jail for a period of time.
“That is the only connection. It looks like she really did her homework on who supervises that facility,” he said. “I don’t know the lady at all.”
Afterwards, he said he bought his assistant a hamburger for misplacing the letter.
Copyright Postmedia Network Inc., 2020