The FBI has arrested a suspect in a case involving the discovery of a pair of letters containing the deadly poison ricin and says investigators are working "around the clock" to address any remaining risks.
The U.S. attorney's office for Eastern Washington had no comment on whether additional charges might be sought.
Matthew Ryan Buquet, 37, was arrested Wednesday.
A grand jury indictment accused him of mailing a death threat to U.S. District Judge Fred Van Sickle in Spokane on May 14.
The indictment did not mention ricin, but the FBI made the link in a news release late Wednesday, saying analysis showed the letter sent to the judge contained "active ricin toxin."
"Our coordinated team acted swiftly to resolve a potentially dangerous situation, and continues working tirelessly around the clock to investigate the origin of the letters and to address any remaining, potential risks," Laura Laughlin, the special agent in charge of the FBI's Seattle office, said in a statement.
The U.S. Postal Service said last week that two letters were intercepted — one addressed to the courthouse and the other to the downtown post office — and they contained ricin in a crude form that did not immediately pose a threat to workers.
Buquet appeared in federal court in Spokane after the FBI said agents arrested him Wednesday afternoon. He pleaded not guilty to mailing a threatening communication.
The short, balding Buquet wore dark-tinted glasses and was shackled in court. He gave brief "yes" and "no" answers to questions from U.S. Magistrate Judge Cynthia Imbrogno.
A search of federal court records turned up no indication that Buquet had ever appeared before Van Sickle or had any connection to the judge.
Imbrogno ordered Buquet held until a bail hearing scheduled for Tuesday. A public defender was appointed to represent him.
If convicted of mailing a threatening communication, he could face up to 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.
U.S. Attorney Michael Ormsby declined to comment after the hearing, and little information about Buquet was immediately available.
Ricin is a highly toxic substance made from castor beans. As little as 500 micrograms, the size of the head of a pin, can kill an adult if inhaled or ingested.
There were no reports of illness connected to the Spokane letters.
Investigators in hazardous materials suits spent most of Saturday executing a search warrant at a three-story apartment building in downtown Spokane. Witnesses reported that agents escorted a man from the building.
The Spokane investigation comes a month after letters containing ricin were addressed to President Barack Obama, a U.S. senator and a Mississippi judge. A Mississippi man was arrested in that case.
State education officials have approved allowing the University of Rhode Island to arm its campus police officers.
The state's Board of Education voted Thursday evening at a meeting at the URI campus.
The proposal would leave it to URI officials to decide whether to arm the university's police force. Right now, Rhode Island is the only state that prohibits public higher education police officers from carrying firearms.
Calls to change that policy got a boost after URI police responded to reports of a gunman in a university building last month. No gun or shooter was found, but supporters of the legislation say the incident highlighted a critical security weakness.
URI President David Dooley supports arming university police.
Data released Thursday by the defense from slain Florida teenager Trayvon Martin's cellphone includes texts with a friend about fighting, smoking pot and being forced to move out of his mother's house because of trouble at school, as well as photos of a gun and what looks to be a potted marijuana plant.
A hearing next week will decide if the information can be used at the trial for George Zimmerman, who is charged with fatally shooting the unarmed 17-year-old last year during a confrontation at a gated community in Sanford. Prosecutors want the negative evidence omitted, but Zimmerman's defense attorney said if they try to portray his client as the antagonist and Martin as the victim, he wants to show the jury that Martin has talked about fighting before.
"If they had suggested that Trayvon is nonviolent and that George is the aggressor, I think that makes evidence of the fighting he has been involved with in the past relevant," said Mark O'Mara.
Zimmerman, 29, has pleaded not guilty to second-degree murder, claiming self-defense and his trial starts next month. O'Mara also filed a motion Thursday asking for a delay in the start of the trial so the defense team can talk at length with an expert witness for the prosecution.
The photos released by Zimmerman's defense team also show Martin blowing smoke and extending his middle finger to the camera.
In the text messages, Martin tells a friend that his mother has told him he needs to move in with his father since he was caught skipping school. He also talks with a friend about smoking "weed."
In another section, he describes being in a fight where his opponent got more hits than he did in the first round.
Prosecutors have filed a motion asking Circuit Judge Debra Nelson to prevent the photos, texts and other personal information from being used at the trial. The hearing is set for next Tuesday when the judge also will consider the motion to delay the trial.
Attorneys for Martin's parents said in a statement that the photos and texts were irrelevant to the trial and could pollute the jury pool.
"Is the defense trying to prove Trayvon deserved to be killed by George Zimmerman because (of) the way he looked?" they said. "If so, this stereotypical and closed-minded thinking is the same mindset that caused George Zimmerman to get out of his car and pursue Trayvon, an unarmed kid who he didn't know."
As for the delay, O'Mara said he needed more time to review the qualifications of a prosecution witness with an expertise in speech identification. O'Mara said prosecutors only made him aware of the expert a short time ago. The expert could be used to testify whose voices were on 911 calls that captured the fatal fight between Zimmerman and Martin.
O'Mara said in an interview that he needed another month or two to prepare.
O'Mara also said in the interview that he is going to ask a judge to sequester not only the jury but the jury pool in the upcoming trial. That may involve sequestering 500 potential jurors in order to find six people who can serve on the jury, O'Mara said.
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Jurors who spent five months determining Jodi Arias' fate couldn't decide whether she should get life in prison or die for murdering her boyfriend, sending prosecutors back to the drawing board to rehash the shocking case of sex, lies and violence to another 12 people.
Judge Sherry Stephens gave a heavy sigh as she announced a mistrial in the penalty phase of the case Thursday and scheduled a July 18 retrial.
"This was not your typical trial," she told jurors. "You were asked to perform some very difficult duties."
The panel then filed out of the courtroom after 13 hours of deliberation that spanned three days, with one female juror turning to the victim's family and mouthing, "Sorry." She and two other women on the jury were crying.
None of the jurors commented as they left court.
The mistrial set the stage for a whole new proceeding to determine whether the 32-year-old former waitress should get a life sentence or the death penalty for murdering Travis Alexander five years ago. He was shot and stabbed nearly 30 times -- his throat slit ear to ear -- in what prosecutors said was a jealous rage because he wanted to date other people.
A new jury will be seated to try again to reach a decision on Arias' sentence -- unless the prosecutor takes execution off the table and agrees to a life term. Jury selection for the next phase could take weeks, given the difficulty of seating an impartial jury in a death penalty case that has attracted global attention.
Arias, who first said she wanted to die and later pleaded to the jury for her life, looked visibly upset about the mistrial and sobbed before it was announced. Her family didn't attend Thursday but has been present for much of the trial.
Family members of Alexander also cried in court.
The same jury on May 8 found Arias guilty of first-degree murder in the death of Alexander, who was nearly decapitated in the bathroom of his Mesa home. The jury later determined the killing was cruel enough to merit consideration of the death penalty.
Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery thanked the panel in a statement after the mistrial was announced: "We appreciate the jury's work in the guilt and aggravation phases of the trial, and now we will assess, based upon available information, what the next steps will be."
He said a status hearing has been set for June 20, "and we will proceed with the intent to retry the penalty phase."
Under Arizona law, a hung jury in a trial's death penalty phase requires a new jury to be seated to decide the punishment. If the second jury cannot reach a unanimous decision, the judge would then sentence Arias to spend her entire life in prison or be eligible for release after 25 years. The judge cannot sentence Arias to death.
A new jury would have to review evidence and hear opening statements, closing arguments and witness testimony in a condensed version of the original trial. Attorneys will also have to find prospective jurors willing to issue a death verdict.
As the proceedings continue, Arias will remain in the Maricopa County jail system, where she has spent the past five years. Sheriff Joe Arpaio said Thursday she will be confined to her cell 23 hours a day and not be allowed to give interviews.
The mistrial came two days after Arias spoke to jurors and pleaded for her life. She said she "lacked perspective" when she told a local reporter after her conviction that she preferred execution to spending the rest of her days in jail. She also told jurors she could bring about positive change in prison by teaching inmates how to read and helping launch prison recycling programs.
That night, Arias gave a series of media interviews from jail, telling reporters out about her many fights with her legal team and her belief that she "deserves a second chance at freedom someday."
Arias contends she killed Alexander in self-defense when he became enraged after a day of sex, forcing her to fight for her life. Prosecutors say she attacked him in a jealous rage because he wanted to end their relationship and go to Mexico with another woman.
Her case became a sensation from the beginning as Arias gave a series of jailhouse interviews following her 2008 arrest in which she blamed the killing on armed, masked intruders.
She went on trial in January, and the case provided seemingly endless amounts of cable TV and tabloid fodder, including a recorded phone sex call between Arias and the victim, nude photos, bloody crime-scene pictures and a defendant who described her life story in intimate detail over 18 days on the witness stand.
The former waitress told jurors of an abusive childhood, cheating boyfriends, dead-end jobs, her sexual relationship with Alexander and her contention that he had grown physically violent.
The trial was streamed live on the Internet and became a real-life soap opera to people around the globe. Some even traveled to Phoenix to attend the trial and became fans of the fiery prosecutor, Juan Martinez, who repeatedly tangled with Arias during her testimony. They sought his autograph outside court and had pictures taken with him, prompting the defense to argue for a mistrial. Their request was denied.
The trial's penalty phase also featured dramatic statements by Alexander's sister and brother as they described how their lives were shattered by the loss of their beloved sibling.
Alexander, 30, overcame a tough upbringing in Southern California to become a successful businessman at a legal insurance company and a source of inspiration to his colleagues, his friends at his Mormon church and his family.
The judge had told jurors they could consider a handful of factors when deciding Arias' sentence, including the fact that she has no previous criminal record. They also could weigh defense assertions that Arias is a good friend and a talented artist.
Arias found it difficult to resist the spotlight throughout her case. She spoke to a Fox affiliate minutes after her conviction, and did a series of jailhouse interviews just hours after the jury got the case in the penalty phase.
"The prosecutor has accused me of wanting to be famous, which is not true," Arias told the AP on Tuesday in an interview where she combed her hair beforehand and wore makeup for the cameras. She also insisted that no images be transmitted of her from the waist down, showing her striped jail pants and shackled ankles.
A hastily scrawled note by President Abraham Lincoln just two months before his assassination ordering a disabled 14-year-old boy released from the Army in response to a plea from the boy's father went on sale Thursday in Philadelphia.
The message saying "Let this boy be discharged," and signed A. Lincoln was written on a telegram from Col. Thomas W. Harris about his son, Perry. It had been in a private collection and was valued at $15,000 by Nathan Raab of the Raab Collection, which offered the previously unknown document for sale.
The letter is considered rare because there are few Lincoln documents relating to children.
Lincoln's order came just two months before he was assassinated by John Wilkes Booth at Ford's Theatre on April 15, 1865. Ironically, Perry Harris was discharged from the Army the same day.
"It shows the type of person [Lincoln] was and how he was defined by clemency," Raab told FoxNews.com. "When you see it's involving a father and his son, it strikes a personal chord and likely did for Lincoln. He was a father of four who lost all but one of his sons."
Harris sent his telegram on Feb. 6, 1865, to Illinois Sen. Lyman Trumbull and Gen. John M. Palmer, pleading, "My son Perry Harris 14 years old insane crippled has been mustered in 55th Kentucky regiment. Please have Secretary of War order him discharged. Col. Thos. W. Harris of Shelbyville, Ill."
Perry had enlisted in the Union Army one month earlier without his parents' blessing. The nature of his disability was not clear, but the minimum enlistment age during the Civil War was 18. Many boys, however, lied about their ages to join the army.
Harris' request wound up on Palmer's desk, and he passed it along to Lincoln with his personal endorsement, writing on the telegram, "I have no doubt of the truth of this statement. John M. Palmer."
Lincoln responded by writing on the telegram, "Let this boy be discharged."
"Compassion in a leader is a rare quality, especially during a horrific war," Edward Steers Jr., a historian who has written extensively on Lincoln and his assassination, told Fox News.
"Lincoln had lost his mother when he was 9 years old, his only sister and close friend when he was 20, his son Eddie in 1850, and his son Willie within a year of occupying the White House. Feeling grief so many times, Lincoln came to understand it better than most people."
"Lincoln's compassion during the Civil War is legendary, as are stories about him showing it toward soldiers, many of whom were little more than children," Raab said. "This stems from his great empathy, but also from his own experience. Nowhere is Lincoln's character on more vivid display than in his leniency toward the boys who had enlisted in the war."
While today there seems little chance of getting a letter directly to the president's desk, Lincoln made himself available to constituents.
"It's hard to imagine sending a letter to the offices of Bush or Obama," Raab said. "But letters often reached Lincoln's desk. He also had office hours and the people could go right in and see him. They were different times."
FoxNews.com's Jana Winter contributed to this story.
West Virginia poultry farmer Lois Alt didn't chicken out when the Environmental Protection Agency threatened her with fines of $40,000 per day, and even though the federal regulators eventually backed off, she's taking them on in a legal case that could benefit thousands of small farmers.
Alt, who owns the small Eight is Enough poultry farm in the town of Old Fields, was hit with the fines after EPA officials claimed high levels of nitrogen in her chickens' waste were fouling waterways. She fought back by filing a lawsuit of her own in federal court of the Northern District of West Virginia, and although the EPA dropped the fines, a judge has kept the case on the docket. Alt's lawyers argue the EPA is wrong to deny small operations like hers the Clean Water Act's statutory exemption for "agricultural stormwater," which big farms get and believe the massive agency has to change its rules - and use better science.
"[T]his Court's ultimate decision on the merits will benefit all parties, including EPA and many thousands of farmers, by clarifying the extent of federal CWA 'discharge' liability and permit requirements for ordinary precipitation runoff from a typical farmyard," the court ruled in rejecting the EPA's bid to have the case dismissed.
Alt's case could get a boost from a new University of Delaware study, which shows the EPA has been overestimating the environmental effect of runoff from feedlots and small farms like Alt's for years. The study found that the level of nitrogen found in chicken manure is 55 percent lower than the decades-old standards set by the EPA. Those findings could give Alt and her legal team powerful ammunition when they go to court on behalf of small farmers everywhere.
"Ms. Alt has courageously taken on EPA not just for her own benefit, but for the benefit of other farmers," said American Farm Bureau Federation President Bob Stallman. "She refused to back down from her principles despite the best efforts of EPA and environmental groups."
The Delaware study raises the possibility of many farmers having been wrongly fined for polluting the ecosystem in the past, a prospect that would only confirm the suspicions of farming advocates.
"For me, it is not surprising, because the way in which the EPA works…it does not have a whole lot of credibility," Don Parrish, the American Farm Bureau Federation's senior director of regulatory relations, told FoxNews.com. "They do have positive goals, but there's a real disconnect in the nature of interpreting science in modern agriculture.
"It's a systematic application that is putting farmers in a negative light," he added.
The EPA did not return requests for comment.
The study, which looked at farms in Delaware, Virginia and West Virginia, found that the EPA standards did not reflect genetic modifications and improved farming techniques that have had a dramatic effect on the farm industry's environmental footprint. One case study showed that poultry plants in Sussex County, Delaware, generated 261,723 tons of manure in a single year, yet the EPA models assumed they produced 1.5 million tons.
"[The] findings are significant because they represent the most current data available, based on tests of thousands of samples of actual manure, not estimates," Dan Shortridge, spokesman for Delaware Department of Agriculture, which participated in the study, told FoxNews.com. "When making decisions and forming policies and goals -- especially about our environment -- it is important to have the most accurate data, and that's what this represents. What this provides policymakers is a detailed look at the actual effects of manure, and it appears to be less than everyone had thought."
The inflated numbers could indicate small farmers have faced unjustified fines for years, if not decades. Alt was threatened with daily fines in 2011 unless she obtained a Clean Water Act discharge permit for rainwater runoff that made its way from her coops to local waterways. With the backing of the West Virginia Farm Bureau and the AFBF, she sued to challenge the permit order. The EPA backed off, but Alt's lawsuit is still pending.
"The EPA seems to have believed if it withdrew the order against Ms. Alt, the court would dismiss her lawsuit," said Stallman. "The tactic failed because the court recognized EPA wasn't changing its underlying legal position, but just trying to avoid having to defend that position."
The court denied a motion by the EPA to dismiss the lawsuit and scheduled a hearing for June 1.