CRIME

Georgetown student who made ricin was depressed, suicidal

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(WJLA) - According to court papers released Tuesday, the Georgetown University student arrested for producing ricin in his dorm room earlier this month had thoughts of ending his own life by ingesting it, but wanted to spare his family the knowledge that he had committed suicide.

Ricin is made from castor beans. (Photo: HediBougghanmi2014/Creative Commons)

Nineteen-year-old Daniel Milzman's attorney chastised authorities for failing to include in records of his client's arrest that Milzman had "advised law enforcement that he contemplated ingesting the ricin himself, in an attempt to end his own life in a way that would not have appeared to his family and friends that he had committed suicide."

Seventeen friends of Milzman left the U.S. District Court after the teen appeared before a judge on Tuesday afternoon, as Milzman’s family and friends declined to speak with reporters.

Lawyers for the government say they have an extremely strong case and asked the judge to order Milzman to be held without bond, as he remains a danger.

Prosecutors cited a series of nasty Facebook messages the student sent a fellow classmate in January – calling him “garbage” and “scum,” encouraging that student to kill himself by doing a flip off the key bridge. It is a possible indication that Milzman may have been planning to use the ricin on someone other than himself.

The defense called the teen a gifted student who has been battling depression for several years and had spiraled toward suicide, arguing he made the ricin to take his own life because the toxin presents symptoms of a virus and would obscure the true nature of the death.

Lawyers for Milzman say that telling his dormitory’s RA about the ricin was a call for help from the scared 19-year-old, who needs medical help that he cannot receive in D.C. jail.

Attorneys Daniel Onorato and Stuart Sears argue that prosecutors have "no credible basis for believing that the substance recovered from Mr. Milzman's room was intended for anyone other than himself."

Milzman's attorneys also argue that their client's mental health has "improved substantially" since the incident, though they suggest he should continue to seek treatment.

Onorato and Sears argued during a court hearing in D.C. Tuesday that Milzman should not be held without bond, as he poses no significant threat to the community, and he is not a flight risk, having grown up in Bethesda and having many family members living around him.

They also say the amount of ricin Milzman produced was a "rather small amount" and "not capable of inflicting widespread harm."

Investigators said the amount found in Milzman's dorm room was equal to 123 milligrams, with a concentration of 7.7 micrograms per milligram, which they said - according to the Textbook of Military Medicine - is enough that it "could potentially have been lethal if inhaled or injected into the circulatory system," but most likely not fatal if ingested.

The judge ruled that Milzman could be released and checked into Sibley Hospital in Maryland, but prosecutors announced they would repeal the decision. Therefore Milzman will remain in custody until the prosecution's appeal is heard.

The prosecution has 24 hours to file their appeal, so it is likely the hearing will not take place until at least Thursday.

Authorities were first made aware of Milzman's possession of ricin when they received a call from one of his residential advisors for his dormitory, located in McCarthy Hall. The advisor said Milzman had told him or her about the ricin, and showed him the baggie containing the material, which Milzman had secured with hockey tape. The advisor then contacted authorities, who obtained search warrants for Milzman's room and found the baggie of ricin, as well as a filter and mask he had worn while manufacturing it, on March 17.

Milzman was arrested after authorities took the substance to a lab and it tested positive for ricin.

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