Military veteran charged with attempting to make ricin to remain jailed

Apr 26, 2024, 1:54 PM

ALEXANDRIA, Va. (AP) — A judge on Friday ordered a Marine Corps veteran and former militia member to remain jailed pending trial on charges he attempted to make ricin, a biological toxin.

Russell Vane, 42, of Vienna, Virginia, was arrested two weeks ago after authorities searched his house and found traces of ricin along with lab equipment and castor beans, from which ricin is derived, in a laundry room in a home he shares with his wife and two young children, according to court papers.

Vane came to authorities’ attention after an online news outlet, News2Share, reported that the Virginia Kekoas militia had severed ties with Vane because they were alarmed by what they considered his loose talk about homemade explosives.

The Kekoas questioned whether he might be a government informant, according to court papers.

The news account prompted a federal investigation and a search of Vane’s northern Virginia home. He was arrested after agents found a plastic bag with castor beans along with a handwritten recipe for extracting ricin from the beans, according to an FBI affidavit.

Subsequent tests confirmed the presence of ricin, according to court records. Also found in Vane’s home was an “Apocalypse Checklist” outlining the necessary steps for quickly evacuating a home with necessary provisions.

At a detention hearing Friday in U.S. District Court, public defender Geremy Kamens said the government “has wildly overcharged this offense” — which carries a possible life sentence — and urged Vane’s release on home confinement pending trial.

Kamens said there is no evidence Vane had threatened anyone. He said that it is virtually impossible for someone to manufacture ricin at home in a way for it to be used as a lethal weapon.

But U.S. District Judge Anthony Trenga sided with prosecutors who said that Vane is a potential danger to the community and should remain locked up.

The judge said that regardless of the homemade poison’s toxicity, he could not think of any innocuous reason for Vane to be trying to manufacture it.

Trenga also questioned whether Vane might pose a flight risk; the government introduced evidence that Vane recently tried to legally change his name in Fairfax County court and that he posted a fake online obituary of himself.

Vane’s lawyer suggested the name change and fake obituary were an effort to distance himself from his connections to the militia.

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Military veteran charged with attempting to make ricin to remain jailed