Clad in a white Spokane County Jail jumpsuit and sporting a long, black beard, the Spokane man accused of sending ricin-laced letters to a federal judge and President Barack Obama appeared in court Wednesday to set a tentative timeline for his legal proceedings.
Matthew Ryan Buquet, 38, was mostly silent during an appearance in U.S. District Court for Eastern Washington on Wednesday morning, conferring in whispers with his attorneys and sipping water from a styrofoam cup. Buquet has been in federal custody since he was arrested shortly after mailing letters containing the biological toxin derived from castor seeds in mid-May. His case was recently transferred to District Judge Ancer Haggerty of Portland, Ore., because Buquet allegedly mailed one of the poisioned letters to Eastern Washington District Judge Fred Van Sickle.
According to a federal indictment filed earlier this summer, each of the letters Buquet sent read, “We have a bomb placed, we are going to Kill you! Hezbollah.”
Though the FBI has said field tests have produced positive results for the presence of ricin in the letters, Eastern Washington Assistant U.S. District Attorney Stephanie Van Marter said Wednesday the government expected to have final, peer-reviewed test results by the beginning of October. Judge Haggerty set motion hearings for January and February ahead of Buquet's expected trial date, to begin in May of next year.
The FBI discovered a total of five ricin letters mailed from Spokane in May, including missives directed to Fairchild Air Force Base, the CIA and a post office. Buquet's legal team declined comment on the pending investigation Wednesday. No one was injured as a result of the poisoned letters.
Buquet has pleaded not guilty to the three counts against him: one charge of developing, producing or possessing a known biological toxin and two counts of mailing a threatening communication. The first count carries a maximum penalty of life imprisonment. Mailing threatening communications carries a maximum penalty of five years under federal law.