TEXARKANA, Texas — A former Flowery Branch resident who had minor acting roles in film and television was sentenced to 18 years in prison Wednesday for sending ricin-laced letters to President Barack Obama and former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg.
A federal judge gave Shannon Guess Richardson, 36, the maximum sentence under her plea deal on a federal charge of possessing and producing a biological toxin. Richardson was also ordered to pay restitution of about $367,000. She had pleaded guilty to the charge in December.
“I never intended for anybody to be hurt,” she told the court, adding later, “I’m not a bad person; I don’t have it in me to hurt anyone.”
Judge Michael H. Schneider noted that she had put many lives in danger and threatened public officials.
Richardson, who had minor acting roles in film and television including in the series “The Walking Dead” and the movie “The Blind Side,” said she thought security measures would prevent anyone from opening the letters addressed to Obama, then New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Mark Glaze, who at the time was director of Mayors Against Illegal Guns, Bloomberg’s group advocating for tougher gun control.
Prosecutors say Richardson mailed the three letters from New Boston, outside Texarkana, then went to police and claimed that her husband had done it. She was arrested last June. The day before her arrest, Nathan Richardson filed for divorce; it was finalized in January.
Prosecutors say investigators noted inconsistencies in Richardson’s statements. She also acknowledged in a signed plea agreement that she ordered castor beans online and learned how to process them into a substance used to make ricin, a toxin that can cause respiratory failure if inhaled.
She obtained an email address, a PayPal shopping account and a post office box in her husband’s name without his knowledge, according to the document.
On the morning of May 20, 2013, she said she waited for her husband to go to work and then printed the mailing labels.
The letter to Obama read, “What’s in this letter is nothing compared to what ive got in store for you mr president,” according to the document. “You will have to kill me and my family before you get my guns. Anyone wants to come to my house will get shot in the face.”
She eventually admitted to trying to blame her husband and lying to authorities.
In asking the judge for leniency Wednesday, Richardson apologized and asked for “mercy and compassion,” saying that she’d already been “punished dearly” by being away from her six children, who she described as “her world.” Her youngest was born prematurely while she was in custody.
“The sentiments expressed in those letters were not mine,” Richardson said.
Richardson also was tearful at times. “I don’t feel like I was in my right mind leading up to that point,” she said.
Richardson’s attorney, Tonda Curry, said her client was “exuding desperation to get out of the situation she was in.”