WASHINGTON – A Quebec woman accused of sending a poisoned letter to former President Donald Trump sounded resigned to her fate on Wednesday as she reluctantly pleaded guilty to the biological weapons charge and served nearly 22 years in prison agreed
WASHINGTON – A Quebec woman accused of sending a poisoned letter to former President Donald Trump sounded resigned to her fate on Wednesday as she reluctantly pleaded guilty to the biological weapons charge and served nearly 22 years in prison behind bars agreed.
“I have to move on now,” said US District Court Judge Dabney Friedrich Pascale Ferrier, 55, as she provided the details of the case during a hearing in Washington, DC, where she has been incarcerated since spring 2021.
The guilty plea also included eight charges from a separate case in Texas, in which Ferrier sent similar letters to police officers, supervisors and prison officials after spending 10 weeks in state jail in 2019 on charges that were ultimately dismissed.
Friedrich made it clear that she would not sign the sentencing recommendation in Ferrier’s plea agreement, which lists a sentence of 21 years and 10 months, until she receives a pre-conviction report, which is expected in late April.
Ferrier, dressed in short-sleeved orange prison garb, her graying dark hair cropped short, and pant legs tucked into white socks, displayed a remarkable knowledge of legal process as Friedrich strove to ensure she understood the circumstances.
Most of what Ferrier said consisted of short one-word answers to Friedrich’s questions like “Yes” and “I see.” But she eventually revealed a lingering sense of anger when the judge asked her to confirm the details of the plea.
“Plea agreements are generally designed to be unfair and unjust, giving the government harmful advantages while the defendants are forced to forego a number of their fundamental rights,” said French-born Ferrier, speaking with a thick Parisian accent.
“I analyzed and weighed all possible options. These agreements are not the best, but the least damaging construction of the criminal ‘wrong’ system.”
Ferrier, who earned an engineering degree in France and made her poison of choice – ricin – from scratch in her home near Montreal from castor beans, surprised Friedrich more than once with her familiarity with the court process.
“Miss Ferrier, you keep demonstrating that you are very well informed about what you are doing here today,” said the judge, who has been appointed by Trump since 2017 and sits on the federal bench.
“I spent hours in the library,” Ferrier replied, her public defender Eugene Ohm at her side.
Ferrier was arrested at the Canada-US Peace Bridge crossing in Buffalo on September 20, 2020 and accused of sending Trump a letter containing the poison ricin. The letter was intercepted on September 18 before it could be delivered to the White House.
“There is no place for political violence in our country and no excuse for threatening officials or endangering our public servants,” DCUS Attorney Matthew Graves said in a statement after the hearing.
“We hope this resolution will serve as a warning that using our mail system to send a toxic substance and other such threats will cost you your freedom for many years to come.”
According to prosecutors, the letter to Trump contained similar language to the letters sent to officials in Texas. It described the poison as a “special gift” and concluded by threatening to “find a better recipe for a different poison, or I might use my gun if I can come.” The letters were all signed “Free Rebel Spirit”.
In an affidavit to obtain the warrant, an FBI investigator wrote that the envelope contained a powdered white substance with a letter addressed to Trump calling him “The Ugly Tyrant Clown.” The letter, intercepted less than two months before the 2020 presidential election, accused Trump of ruining the United States and urged him to “abandon” his reelection bid.
“On September 18, 2020, the United States Secret Service notified the Federal Bureau of Investigation of a letter addressed to the White House,” Assistant US Attorney Michael Friedman said as he read a detailed summary of the facts of the case into the transcript.
“Special WMD coordinators and hazardous materials experts had to be stationed in different locations when the letters came in.”
Authorities said Ferrier had a loaded handgun, nearly 300 rounds of ammunition, a stun gun, pepper spray, a baton and a fake Texas driver’s license when she was arrested.
A hearing on the verdict in the case is tentatively scheduled for April 26.
This report from The Canadian Press was first published on January 25, 2023.
James McCarten, The Canadian Press