A woman was sentenced to 262 months – almost 22 years – in prison for sending threatening letters containing homemade ricin poison to then-President Donald Trump at the White House in 2020, the US Justice Department said.
Pascale Cecile Veronique Ferrier, 56, a dual citizen of Canada and France, pleaded guilty to violating biological weapons laws earlier this year for sending highly toxic ricin-filled letters to Trump and eight Texas state law enforcement officials, the Justice Department said in a statement on Thursday.
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Ferrier had been detained in Texas for 10 weeks in 2019 and she believed the law enforcement officers were responsible for her detention, the Justice Department said in a statement. She had also used the Twitter social media platform “to propose that someone should ‘please shoot [T]rump in the face’,” the department added.
The toxic envelope addressed to Trump was intercepted in September 2020 at the White House mail sorting facility in Washington, where US Postal Service personnel flagged it as suspicious and contacted the FBI, according to an FBI affidavit filed then with the charging documents.
In an unrelated case, letters laced with ricin were also sent in 2013 to then-US President Barack Obama and then-New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg.
Ferrier, who was arrested two days after posting the letter, admitted that she had made ricin at her residence in Quebec, Canada, prosecutors said. Ricin is a deadly poison made from castor beans.
Prosecutor Michael Friedman said the sentence was an “appropriately harsh punishment” that sends a clear message.
Ferrier’s defence lawyer Eugene Ohm said his client had no prior criminal record and was an “inordinately intelligent” French immigrant who had earned a master’s degree in engineering and raised two children as a single parent.
But, in September 2020, prosecutors said Ferrier made the ricin and posted it to Trump with a letter that referred to him as “The Ugly Tyrant Clown” and read in part: “If it doesn’t work, I’ll find better recipe for another poison, or I might use my gun”.
The letter also told Trump to “give up and remove your application for this election”.
In a winding speech, Ferrier told the judge that she considers herself a “peaceful and genuinely kind person”, but became angry about problems such as unfairness, abuses of power and “stupid rules”.
She spoke about feeling like she had done little to support her values while her children were young, and considered herself to be an “activist” rather than a “terrorist”.
She expressed little remorse but said, “I want to find peaceful means to achieve my goals.”
US District Judge Dabney Friedrich handed down the 262-month sentence outlined in a plea agreement with prosecutors, which also expels Ferrier from the country once she is released from prison and requires her to be under supervised release for life if she ever returns to the US.
The judge noted a “real disconnect” between the Canadian grandmother who has worked towards another degree while behind bars and the crimes Ferrier pleaded guilty to. She pushed back on Ferrier’s framing of her actions as that of an activist.
“That isn’t really activism,” she said. “I hope you have no desire to continue on this path.”