After a brief state of grace in which a judge ruled that Georgetown student and ricin-maker Danny Milzman could be released to psychiatric treatment in the nation’s capitol, and then home, his case has reverted to standard procedure.
All Americans who have been caught in ricin cases in the last fifteen years are jailed until trial or plea agreements. At which point they have all been sent to prison.
The ramifications and results of this policy have been discussed at length on this blog, most recently, last week, where analysis of the present and past cases are listed as well as one minor exception to the rule.
From the WaPo, minutes ago:
Chief Judge Richard W. Roberts overruled a magistrate judge’s order that would have allowed the student, Daniel Milzman, to enter an inpatient psychiatric treatment program.
Roberts said Monday that he was troubled by Milzman’s conversation with a close friend in which the sophomore allegedly denied being suicidal and said he was “definitely a threat to someone,” according to prosecutors.
The judge also said he was concerned that Milzman told law enforcement officials that he learned about the powdery substance from the hit TV show “Breaking Bad.” In the show, the protagonist uses ricin to poison his adversary – not to kill himself …
In his ruling from the bench, Roberts acknowledged Milzman’s depression but said the student’s mental health issues do not “eliminate the possibility that he intended to use it on someone else” and “may pose a threat to the community.”
Milzman’s “ability and determination” to make the ricin, the judge said, “reflects the seriousness of the danger to others should he be released.”
After the hearing, Milzman’s parents — both local doctors — and his two brothers were surrounded by nearly 90 classmates, colleagues and other friends who filled the courtroom.
Milzman will apparently remain in jail. Historically, ricin cases proceed slowly. Among them, previously, there has been no such thing as a speedy trial.
As mentioned last week, the Milzman case should give everyone a headache. All ricin cases should.
The US justice system needs a diversion program for first-time ricin-offenders with ameliorating or extenuating circumstances.
It would only be just and fair.
The US does not get a lot of ricin offenders per year but the cases almost always become high profile. And the American social environment and beliefs about the poison virtually guarantee that every year will always bring a fresh crop of mixed-up, young, or in some way mentally unsound or damaged first-time ricin-makers.
No one has ever died in connection with an American ricin case. No members of the public have ever been injured in any way in American ricin cases. And nobody has died from the consumption, accidental or intentional, of castor seeds or castor powder, if the public record on the matter is accurate, in at least the last 20 years.
Someone else who thought his smartphone gave him a technological edge.
Michael Piggin, an English teen who used his smartphone to download the old Mujahideen Poisons Handbook, a bowdlerized copy of Maxwell Hutchkinson’s The Poisoner’s Handbook, has had England’s heavy artillery called out and arrayed against him in court.
A Porton Down chemist was called to testify on the digital text, which has been judged a seditious document in the United Kingdom for over a decade. That is, possession of it potentially gets you jail for having materials deemed likely to be of use to terrorists or in terrorism.
From the unparalleled archives of this blog, 2007:
“Defendant after defendant has discovered that a long-forgotten internet search has left an indelible record sufficient for a conviction under the profoundly disturbing section 58 of the Terrorism Act 2000, which allows prosecution for simple possession of an item likely to be useful to terrorists, and carries a sentence of up to 10 years’ imprisonment,” wrote Gareth Piece for the Guardian on the 21st.
Pierce is a well-known defense lawyer in England. Her firm was notably reponsible for the defense in the trial of the notorious so-called London ricin gang and she has represented many others in England’s ongoing terror trials.
This blog has repeatedly analyzed and published portions — even entire copies — of documents which are now, for practical matters in the UK courts, considered seditious publications. For the legal system, there are only two working justifications for having them: Being a jounalist or a professional tasked with analyzing them.
For the trial of Samina Malik, aka The Lyrical Terrorist, DD was asked by the defense to contribute a short analysis concerning the Mujahideen Poisons Handbook.
It was found in Malik’s possession and is considered, wrongly, to be a document of potential use to terrorists. It contains many errors and some rather large fabrications which, while not obvious to laymen, are glaringly apparent to professionals trained in chemistry and biology.
DD has combed over it many times in the past year, tracing its origins and showing that it is fundamentally just an abridged and Bowdlerized copy of a pamphlet that had been published in the US in 1988, Maxwell Hutchkinson’s The Poisoner’s Handbook (Loompanics).
Samina Malik, from Southall, west London, was found guilty at the Old Bailey of owning terrorist manuals,” reported the BBC simply in November.
“The jury heard Malik had written extremist poems praising Osama Bin Laden, supporting martyrdom and discussing beheading … Malik worked at WH Smith at Heathrow Airport until her arrest last October.”
Malik was convicted for possessing records deemed to be of potential use to terrorists, including the document pictured above. It has been published many places on the web and the above snapshot was published in a Sunday edition of the Washington Post newspaper in 2005. Naturally, it is an object of great curiosity, and not just to aspiring terrorists.
However, if you reside in the United Kingdom, have downloaded it and are swept up in a counter-terror dragnet, you are in big trouble.
“[She] was acquitted on a more serious charge of possessing articles for terrorist purposes, a fact that the judge said he took into account when deciding on a suspended sentence,” reported the Los Angeles Times in early December.
However, Malik’s sentence was subsequently suspended by the judge on the condition she stay out of such trouble going forward. Which apparently she did.
In 2007, the law was used to get those suspected to be in on Islamic terrorism.
In the case of Michael Piggin, the circumstances are reversed.
If one is to believe the BBC, he wanted to firebomb schools and a mosque with molotov cocktails. That alone will, in all probability, guarantee he is kept at Her Majesty’s pleasure for a substantial period of time.
In 2004-2005, the UK government trotted out Porton Down experts for the famous London ricin trial. Porton Down is England’s ultimate biological and chemical weapons defense installation, historically famous.
In the infamous Wood Green ricin trial, Porton Down’s testimony on poison recipes and ricin was ineffective. And that story is retold, in great detail, by me, here in Playtime Recipes for Poisons, which is a good way to describe material similar to that included in the Mujahideens Poisons Handbook .
However, Michael Piggin will go down for it, this time. And the Porton Down expert will have been effective.
From the BBC:
Dr Paul Rice, employed at Porton Down since 1987, said fireworks and bleach found in Michael Piggin’s bedroom could be used to make chlorine gas.
Mr Piggin, 18, is accused of planning attacks on a mosque and a school.
He denies two Terrorism Act charges but has admitted possessing explosives.
The Old Bailey heard a copy of the prohibited Mujahideen Poisons Handbook had been found by police, downloaded on Mr Piggin’s mobile phone …
Dr Rice, a chemical and biological weapons expert, told the court that the Mujahedeen Poisons Handbook, was a publication he had come across before and contained details about “homemade chemicals, gases and drugs” …
The handbook contained instructions on how to make poisons such as ricin, which could prove lethal in tiny quantities, the court heard.
Time and the instruments of technology have changed. People haven’t.
Now your ricin recipes are downloaded by smartphone, rather than the old home pc.
Perhaps someone should write a handy app called …
Do you think the iTunes store would allow it?
The Piggin trial arrived in the British news in early March.
Excerpting from the Guardian on March 4:
The teenager, who has Asperger’s syndrome, had drawn up a hitlist that included his college, a mosque, a cinema, Loughborough University and the town’s council offices, the Old Bailey heard.
On the back of his notebook, Piggin had scribbled “Fuck Islam – born in England, live in England, die in England”, and inside he wrote that he was a member of the EDL (a far right soccer hooligan gang for English purity) in opposition to the “Islamic invasion of Europe” …
Piggin stockpiled nine partially assembled petrol bombs [molotov cocktails made from beer bottles], as well as improvised explosive devices, air rifles, a gas mask, a crossbow, a camouflage flak jacket and other weaponry, the court heard. Detectives also found the Mujahideen Poisons Handbook in Piggin’s bedroom, the jury was told.
One is taken aback when confronted by an anti-Islamic bigot teenager with a copy of the Mujahideen Poisons Handbook and an alleged plan to take a Columbine-like revenge on his community.
1. From Steven Aftergood’s Secrecy Bulletin at the Federation of American Scientists, in 2005:
“The first time I saw [the Mujahideen Poisons Handbook],” said chemist George Smith of GlobalSecurity.org, “I thought it must be a hoax.”
“Careful examination of the document shows that it is crammed with errors, seemingly the work of someone with little discernible sense, profoundly ignorant of the nature of simple compounds and incompetent in even minor [laboratory] procedures,” Dr. Smith wrote in National Security Notes in March 2004:
In short, the Mujahideen Poisons Handbook that was excerpted on the Washington Post web site indicates something nearly the opposite of what the Post article on terrorist use of the internet claimed to show.
“The ‘Poisons Handbook’ is an example of someone professing to know what he is doing on poisons who profoundly and obviously does not know what he is doing,” Dr. Smith said.
This kind of motivation was a far cry from the old hacker pseudo-ethic, “Information wants to be free.” It was true that contemporary hackers tended to repeat this slogan over and over in their underground manuals. But in practice, it was little more than a convenient euphemism, eyewash that obscured the underlying bedrock of hacker belief, which was: “Your information is mine for free. But everything I can grab is secret unless you have something I want which can’t be free-loaded, stolen or found somewhere else.” — The Virus Creation Labs, 1994
Yesterday I was interviewed by a television producer/journalist in the process of making a documentary on the old computer underground of computer virus writing and spreading. It’s going to be for television content made for showing on Xboxes.
At the beginning she mentioned she’d read my book, The Virus Creation Labs, many years ago. She added she’d found an on-line copy, pirated in its entirety to the web and sent the link.
Sure enough, The Virus Creation Labs, now on its 20-year anniversary, is on the web, and obviously not in my domain.
I mentioned the lead box-quote and added I didn’t think much had changed.
In fact, although not as explicitly put, that quote is one of the central tenets of our Culture of Lickspittle. In fact, it’s now practiced in a more corporate, predatory and all-encompassing manner.
The ideology is one of the foundations of disruptive innovation and the so-called sharing economy, one in which the holders of the internet gateways and services get all the share and everyone else gets shit.
In 1994 there was very little money to be made writing malware and selling computer viruses. Today there’s good money to be had, through organized and spot crime and, better still, in the secret warrens of Uncle Sam’s offensive cyberwar operations.
I told the lady I believed you would find the same mentality in America’s professional computer virus-writers and malware bushwhackers as you found in the teenagers, twenty and thirty somethings of the virus underground in 1994.
Back then, they thought they were collectively hot stuff as I’m sure they do at the National Security Agency today.
Consider them at length and what they do and after some thought you arrive at the conclusion they must be a professionally mute and unimaginative bunch willing to be anonymously rapacious for a steady job, not even unique. The novelty was gone a decade or more ago.
Write malware for fix or six figures a year. Get a check from the government or the defense contractor providing employees for the operation. Perhaps some of the new malware men and women are so deluded they even think they’re defending freedom with the sharp cutting edges of technology and brain power.
Which is an even worse, as far as warped thinking goes, than the “information wants to be free” thing from decades ago.
I laughed when I told the producer that malware programmers had gone from being part of the shunned computer underground to people recruited by the likes of Keith Alexander of the NSA at hacker conventions.
So they could get a straight job being corporate stooges in the national security megaplex creating untrustworthy networks for, wait for it, freedom and the American way!
After two decades the technology is a light year away from 1994. But not a lot else has changed.
Looking at the big picture, many things have repeated themselves, only globally and in tidal wave volumes. At the root of it, though, the people, the wetware, are much the same. And not nearly as smart as their press would lead one to believe.
My old publisher, Mark Ludwig, as written previously, is dead. He ran off to Central America, specifically Belize, before 2000, convinced the country was eventually going to collapse.
Even in Central America he wasn’t satisfied, apparently switching allegiances between Belize, Nicaragua and back. This post, from nine years ago in Nicaragua, does not paint a particularly flattering picture. (Page down for the pertinent section.)
If my memory remains good, the last royalty check/statement from The Virus Creation Labs came in 1998.
On the web, The Virus Creation Labs is now alleged to be “owned” by something called Geodesies Publishing. My ass.
The tv producer told me how much she liked the book and that someone ought to be interested in a redo.
I laughed again. Mark Ludwig and American Eagle weren’t the right place for it, something that’s now more a matter of amusement than regret.
The audience for American Eagle’s books weren’t readers, at least not in the sense of a reader who would like what I do.
No one bought Ludwig’s books of computer viruses for some quality as a good read or because they liked them. Much of American Eagle’s “readership” was professionally captive, companies and individuals in the computer virus industry and PC security work who felt they had to have them, if only to be able to analyze the malware for countermeasures, if necessary.
From the old post on the black books of computer viruses:
You need a sense of humor to get what I did. Publishing black books on computer viruses was mostly for a totally humorless audience.
You also needed to be more human.
For me, having The Virus Creation Labs
pirated is like someone stealing the private small stone or pebble memorial to a long gone but once-loved pet out of your back garden, something that meant something to you but not much, if anything at all, to anyone else. Just because it was possible, rationalized as providing a public service, the furnishing of an educational resource on the original computer underground. (You remember the hogwash from the early days of Napster and music freetardism: The creators would benefit from gaining exposure to a new and appreciative audience they didn’t have and their boats would be lifted thereby.)
You also notice when such things are done, as it is done to many others, too, while someone always goes to the trouble of getting all the details to the last jot and tittle correctly rendered to the web, the liberated-by-technology digital goodies never include backlinks to their creators.
Thank you, innovation. Thank you, progress. Thank you, internet.
Young Georgetown ricin-maker, Danny Milzman, had a favorite TV show: Breaking Bad! In fact, if the lawyers in his case are to be taken at face value, one might say Breaking Bad broke him, in some hard to pin down way.
I liked the show, too. Especially the end where Walter dies to Badfinger’s “Baby Blue” and the screen turns to black. Perhaps not as much as Danny Milzman, though.
But Breaking Bad’s long fascination with ricin had nothing to do with reality of the poison. On the other hand, it has contributed to the weird beliefs Americans cleave to concerning it.
Walter White first made ricin in the desert, with partner Jesse Pinkman, to poison two drug kingpins. They cooked it.
You can’t cook castor seeds or any powder containing ricin. It destroys it. And this is probably what saved a woman, last year, who tried to poison herself.
From this blog’s incomparable archives:
Contrary to American war on terror mythology, castor seeds and ricin don’t make a good weapon. In fact, it is even harder than one might think to achieve simple poisoning.
“A suicidal North Logan woman who survived poisoning with the deadly ricin toxin earlier this month is getting another break: she will not be criminally charged …
“When the woman boiled the beans, she created ricin. The fumes contaminated the home, putting the family of 4 upstairs at risk.
“Police say the woman did eat some of the beans and was taken to the hospital.”
Proteins are denatured by heating. Ricin is a protein. And it is certain that it is destroyed by heat. Boiling the castor seeds is most probably what saved the woman’s life, although she was still hospitalized after eating 30 of them.
Boiling castor seeds does not produce ricin gas. A Hazmat team was summoned. No one except the woman was every really in any danger.
In fact, research has shown it is not elementary to end oneself even eating castor seeds. An abstract on eighty four incidents of accidental and intentional castor seed ingestion over the course of a decade in Kansas was discussed here earlier this week. (Again, why you read this blog. No news organization has ever published such information.)
People who unintentionally consumed castor seeds averaged eight and a half beans per incident. Those who did it on purpose, perhaps some of whom wished to poison themselves, ate ten.
There wasn’t one death.
One person even ate castor seeds and shot up a mix of them and failed to expire although they did suffer bloody diarrhea and vomiting!
(Note to ninnies: This does not mean you should eat castor seeds as a parlor trick at drinking parties to impress friends.)
In the last episode of Breaking Bad, Walter White puts his ricin powder in Brock’s artificial sweetener at a coffee shop. We see it go into her hot tea and later she is shown in the grip of ricin poisoning.
There’s that idea that you can put proteins, like ricin, in hot water again! And that consuming it is a sure death.
There is little to no real support for any of it in the scientific and historical record. But it’s good mass entertainment!
Whoever the science advisors were to Breaking Bad, on ricin — they were dogshite.
Now, from the Washington Post, an hour ago:
The hit TV show “Breaking Bad” and its dark plotlines played an outsized role in a federal courtroom in Washington this week in the case of a Georgetown sophomore accused of turning his dorm room into a laboratory for the deadly poison ricin.
Lawyers argued over whether Daniel Milzman, a pre-med sophomore, made the powdery substance to poison someone — or to take his own life. In making the case that Milzman should remain behind bars, prosecutors have tried to connect Milzman’s intentions with his statement to authorities that he learned about the lethal toxin from his favorite show …
In the case of the Georgetown student, defense attorneys have said Milzman was a troubled 19-year-old struggling with depression. He created the ricin, his lawyers said, because he wanted to hide his suicide plans from his family. If he became ill from the substance, no one would know that he had killed himself.
But the federal prosecutor argued that Milzman’s statements about “Breaking Bad” suggested otherwise. She told the judge that the show’s protagonist produced ricin not to commit suicide, but to kill someone else. A friend said Milzman was such a big fan of the show he knew the name of each episode by heart.
The judge asked if Milzman was such a big fan of the show, why had not the prosecutors brought it up on the day another judge had ordered the young man released to psychiatric treatment in a DC hospital?
The government’s lawyer responded she had been unfamiliar with the show.
“I was not as familiar with the show then as I am today,” said Assistant U.S. Attorney Maia Miller, according to the Washington Post.
The government argued Milzman’s language on Facebook, threats against someone else, echoed another grisly moment from Breaking Bad, one in which someone’s body is disposed of by dumping it into a plastic barrel of hydrofluoric acid.
According to documents, Milzman posted this to Facebook:
“You would be more useful to the world if you were chemically dis-incorporated and the elements that composed your body were sold to laboratories.”
The case of Danny Milzman should give you a headache. All American ricin cases should.
I’ve argued that ricin cases have been the domain of the senseless for years.
The only exceptions are those very few obviously done out of pure malice, like the J. Everett Dutschke case last year.
Shannon Richardson, the Texas woman, also from last year, who mailed the poison to the president in an attempt to have her husband jailed, aka Ricin Mama, was, like Danny Milzman, mentally unstable.
Matthew Buquet, the to-the-president-ricin-mailer in Spokane the same month has been recently bound over for psychiatric evaluation.
Buquet mailed the president on a company’s stationary where he was a night janitor, apparently because a secretary he took a shine to did not return his affections.
Jeffrey Levenderis, from Akron, Ohio, mentioned all this week, was a deeply depressed man living in a nursing home in 2011 when he was arrested for castor powder in a jar in the refrigerator at his former home.
And Casey Cutler, from Arizona during the height of the war on terror, was merely an addled young man with a drug problem, who did not even make ricin, but someone who impossibly tried to concoct it from castor oil in a plan to defend himself from drug gangsters who had beaten him up for being short on payment.
But because of the war on terror, the news and entertainment media, plus national security experts mythologizing about ricin, an artificial and crazy environment exists in which the US position on it is intellectually untenable.
There’s no diversion program for first time castor powder makers with no criminal priors and extenuating circumstance like mental illness and no harm.
The ruling precedent is that everyone who gets the federal public defender in a ricin case goes to jail. (One exception: Robert Alberg of Kirkland, Washington. An autistic man, the court recognized he was impaired when he made ricin and ordered release under a five year parole guideline. But he went back to making ricin and was subsequently re-jailed.)
A diversion program, or a reset of legal definition at the federal level, would take care of many of the distasteful things now obvious again because of the Danny Milzman case.
Optional: Throw a couple beans in the misery jar. (Page down after link.)
Yesterday I posted a long analysis on the case of young Danny Milzman of Georgetown U., the first ricin-maker ruled to be sent to for psychiatric treatment at a hospital, then release to his parents after two weeks. The government argued Milzman should be held without bond.
If released to Sybil Memorial Hospital in the nation’s capitol, Milzman would have been a first in the history of Americans arrested for making ricin,
No ricin-makers have ever been granted such treatment. Until this case. They are always held in jail without bail until trial, which can often take years to arrive.
Wednesday, a second judge in the Milzman case slowed the process down, kicking the can down the road until Monday:
Daniel Milzman (COL ‘16), who was charged with possession of a biological toxin last Friday, appeared before District court on Tuesday for his detention hearing. Judge John M. Facciola ordered that Milzman be sent to Sibley Memorial Hospital for a 14 day inpatient psychiatric program.
On Wednesday, following a government appeal of Facciola’s decision, Chief Judge W. Roberts postponed the decision on whether to release Milzman to the inpatient program until next Monday.
Milzman is being held in solitary confinement under suicide watch.
He is not the first ricin-maker to have been judged depressed and potentially suicidal.
In 2011, Jeffrey Levenderis of Ohio was arrested for having ricin.
From yesterday’s analysis, an excerpt from wire news on the story:
Ricin suspect Jeff Boyd Levenderis will continue to be held on suicide watch in Summit County jail at least until a Feb. 15 federal court hearing when his lawyer will resume trying to get him released on bond.
Before his arrest last week, Levenderis was staying in a Tallmadge nursing home where his attorney said he was being treated for mental illness and a thyroid condition …
[His lawyer] said Levenderis’ suicide watch includes being held naked in a cell under constant watch from deputies.
Levenderis’ defense argued his health could deteriorate if he were maintained under such conditions. Nevertheless, a judge ruled that Levenderis could not be released.
Let’s make the big 20 click push to 800 views! Blessed are the job creators, they can always hire way more waiters!
From Krugman, yesterday:
[Emails] that bash the Kochs raise three times as much as emails that don’t.
And you can see why: the Kochs are perfect villains. It’s not just what they are — serious evildoers who use their wealth to push hard-line right-wing, anti-environmental policies that redound very much to their own benefit. It’s also what they aren’t: they’re wealthy heirs, not self-made men, they aren’t identified with innovation (which you can at least argue for Bill Gates), they haven’t made money for other people like Warren Buffett. So focusing on the Kochs is a way to personalize a vision of conservative politics as a defense of people with unearned privilege.
And here’s the thing: that vision is basically right.
In my e-mail today, and last week:
We JUST got the images that The Illuminators will be projecting on the side of Boston’s PBS station this week to help kick David Koch off the Board of WGBH, and they are brilliant! Check out two of them below. The only problem is that despite nearly 500 members who have chipped in, we STILL don’t have enough to pull it off. You can put us over the top and send an unforgettable message to the Koch Brothers. Just donate $5 here.
Wow! We just learned about a HUGE opportunity to ramp up our campaign to kick right-wing extremist David Koch off the Board of WGBH — one of the most influential PBS stations in the country and the producer of NOVA, Frontline, and Masterpiece — but we need your help …
The Kochs are perfect demons and the Democratic Party has wised up to the effectiveness of demonization as a power and fund-raising tactic.
In press, the Kochs have complained about it.
But here’s the rub: Every time one of the country’s super-rich pops off in the media about how the wealthy are being persecuted in the current social climate, that disliking them is antithetical to some imagined American ideal, they make themselves look even worse.
In so doing they come off as bloated maniacs surrounded by paid lickspittles who would never dream of telling them to shut it. Whatever they may believe, no one has crimped their fortunes appreciably in modern memory.
Moving along, for WhiteManistan, demonization just works! Ted Nugent couldn’t thrive and prosper without it. Ka-ching!
The president, naturally, has been effectively demonized for his entire administration, fundamentally because he is an African-American. A significant swath of the American electorate, the world view/religion/place I call WhiteManistan, believe him to be [fill in anything — as long as it’s monstrous].
And, today, from Krugman, someone mails in the Atlas Shrugged Boogie:
“Paul you are a subhuman communist traitor who should be deported. You are a disgrace to america’s founders and an affront to the Constitution. Republicans believe in protecting the money of WORKERS not RECEIVERS. All workers, poor and rich, should be protected from high taxes equally.”
Krugman goes on to comment, “[During] the Progressive Era, it was commonplace and widely accepted to support high taxes on the rich specifically in order to keep the rich from getting richer — a position that few people in politics today would dare espouse.”
High tax rates on the wealthy, he explains, where an American invention, invented for social and economic reasons to help prevent the country from coming to be like “Old Europe.”
Nevertheless, this has been shoved down the memory hole. Few people know that wealth redistribution was “once as American as apple pie.”
Danny Milzman, the ricin-making student at Georgetown, may be a first in the past decade’s history of castor bean pounders in America. After today’s court appearance, Milzman’s attorney, Danny Onorato, was successful at getting him into an in-house psychiatric evaluation and treatment program at a hospital after which he would be released to home. The government wanted him held in jail without bond. 
In ricin cases in the US this just doesn’t happen.
No one cares about ricin-makers. All of them, with one exception, a woman who attempted and failed to poison herself last year, are kept in jail and eventually convicted.
I’ll get to the contrasts with the Milzman case in a moment.
It’s no secret that class, economic status and family have much to do with how one is treated in the US justice system.
But Danny Milzman’s ricin case is now an example of that, too. Because if, eventually, he does not receive a prison sentence, class, the circumstances of his upbringing, his family’s resources and his treatment in the Washington Post will all have played a role.
From the Post, moments ago:
Daniel Milzman, who friends said has a sharp scientific mind, spent days carefully tinkering with castor beans and chemicals, finally producing a lethal amount of a toxin that is seven times as powerful as cobra venom: ricin. The poison has been manufactured by terrorists and can kill with just a small amount of contact …
[Ricin is not a contact poison. Post reporters get it wrong as soon as the second paragraph. However, the Milzman case is now one of human interest and, that, they can sink their teeth into.]
“He was tortured. He was having a hard time in his life. He was a scared 19-year-old kid,” Onorato said. The ricin was “not intended for anyone other than himself.”
Magistrate Judge John M. Facciola agreed, ordering Milzman released to an in-patient psychiatric program at Sibley Memorial Hospital …
He co-authored articles with his father, David Milzman, who is the research director at the Department of Emergency Medicine at MedStar Georgetown University Hospital.
Magistrate Judge John M. Facciola agreed, ordering Milzman released to an in-patient psychiatric program at Sibley Memorial Hospital.
Milzman was a National Merit Scholar Semi-Finalist at Walt Whitman High in Bethesda, MD, which — you should know — is one of the public schools of choice for the upper middle class servants of the capitol’s political power and wealth brokers.
“Students remember that he raised money for leukemia research and launched several unsuccessful runs for president of the student government association that were punctuated by humorous speeches,” the Post adds.
Milzman had a “glowing” personality and answered science questions “lightning quick.”
You get the picture. The entire piece is here.
Yes, it would be a shame for Danny Milzman to get ten years on a ricin beef. There is no way such an outcome would serve any purpose other than punitive. Milzman is, at best, a petty nuisance with some mental problems.
However, there are a few wrinkles. There have been other ricin men who were no more than petty nuisances with some mental problems. The difference has been that in our system, no one cared about them like the folks care about Danny Milzman.
Take the case of Jeffrey Levenderis.
From this blog’s unsurpassed archives (these are wire news excerpts, with the last item being my words):
[In January of 2011 the] Akron office of the FBI received a tip on Monday about a possible hazardous substance at a house in the 2000 block of South Main Street. The next day, the FBI’s Hazardous Materials Response Unit from Quantico, Virginia and the FBI’s Pittsburgh Hazardous Response Team searched the home.
According to a news release from the FBI on Friday, FBI labs confirm the hazardous substance was ricin, which can be deadly if ingested or inhaled . The toxin is derived from the castor bean.
The FBI said during a news conference Friday that an arrest has made and 54-year-old Jeffery Levenderis, of Coventry Township, will appear in Akron federal court on Friday.
Levenderis used to live at the house and another person was in the process of moving in. He faces one count of having a dangerous or toxic substance. Authorities do not believe this has any connection to terrorism.
Ricin suspect Jeff Boyd Levenderis will continue to be held on suicide watch in Summit County jail at least until a Feb. 15 federal court hearing when his lawyer will resume trying to get him released on bond …
Before his arrest last week, Levenderis was staying in a Tallmadge nursing home where his attorney said he was being treated for mental illness and a thyroid condition. Bryan said Levenderis might go back there if released.
Bryan said Levenderis’ health improved dramatically after being placed in the nursing home in November and he expressed concern it might deteriorate in jail. He said Levenderis’ suicide watch includes being held naked in a cell under constant watch from deputies.
A judge refused bail to Jeffrey B. Levenderis, jailed when a container containing castor powder was found in what had been his refrigerator by a new tenant …
The judge in this case ruled that attorney’s had not shown the community would be safe if Levenderis was remitted to the nursing home he’d been in.
To my knowledge, Jeffrey Levenderis is still in jail awaiting trial.
Or take the case of Roger von Bergendorff.
From the Register, by me, in 2008:
It takes a special kind of American to be fascinated by ricin, and last week the latest, Roger Von Bergendorff, was indicted in the District Court of Nevada. Bergendorff possibly qualifies for an award in failed Darwinism, being the only person in recent times to have seemingly accidentally poisoned himself with the protein toxin, but not quite effectively enough for the FBI to have nothing to do except attend his funeral.
The US government’s complaint against Bergendorff, filed on April 15 paints a common picture: loser dude on the fringes of society, indigent but with still enough money to have two unregistered guns with silencers, castor seeds, a standard collection of anarchist poisons literature and castor powder – or “crude” ricin as the FBI puts it.
Bergendorff told the FBI his production of ricin was an “exotic idea.” He’d been puttering away at powdering castor seeds as something of a hobby since 2005 while living in poverty in Utah and Nevada. He’d pounded them in the basement of a cousin (who has also been charged in connection with the case) and, most recently, possibly in an Extended Stay America hotel room in Las Vegas.
Bergendorff had “researched” the Internet for his ricin recipe, downloading the Anarchist’s Cookbook. He babbled his method to the FBI, which duly reported he had conducted “a series of ‘mashings’ of the castor seeds with acetone and drying out the mash to remove the oil.” While Bergendorff admitted to doing this, he professed to not always remember precisely where he’d done the work or if he’d performed it on castor seeds bought from a garden shop, the receipt for which the FBI recovered in its searches. “Bergendorff admitted [that there had been people] who made him mad over the years and he had thoughts about causing them harm to the point of making some plans but he maintained he had never acted on those thoughts or plans,” reads the indictment.
Bergendorff had been hospitalized, possibly from his powder although this was never proven conclusively, and that is how the case came to light.
There was no sympathy or mercy. Bergendorff was convicted.
Said the judge: “You not only proved a material threat to yourself, you proved a material threat to everyone around you when you possessed this stuff.”
And, last, we arrive at the story of Casey Cutler, someone who never even made ricin. He wanted to but could not find castor seeds. Instead, he tried to make it from castor oil, which does not contain ricin.
From the Register, again — by me — in 2006:
But the biggest travesty is the story of Casey Cutler, an addled young man caught by very bad luck and drug use gone wrong, pathetically trying to make ricin from an intestinal lubricant.
As GlobalSecurity.Org Senior Fellow, I chatted with Jon Sands, Cutler’s federal public defender at the beginning of summer. He laughed dryly and described the case as “terrorism lite” before sending over the files on the case.
Cutler, according to Sands, suffered from a variety of mental problems and had been “self-medicating” with marijuana and other drugs which he purchased from bad elements, the kind apparently quick to teach you a physical lesson should you renege on payment.
Cutler was subsequently rolled by his suppliers on April 28 of 2005, causing him to hatch a self-defense plan, one in which he would use ricin to poison his tormentors should they return. He would offer it as free drugs …
[Cutler] found he had no idea how to get the beans. So he went to a store and bought castor oil, which – of course – contains no ricin.
No worries, Cutler boiled down the castor oil “to reduce it and utilized acetone (as indicated by the recipe) to extract the ricin from the mixture,” reads the finding of fact in his federal plea agreement with the US. But since castor oil contains no ricin, the federal court document is stuck, finding it awkward to admit that the defendant could not possibly have had the toxin. Instead it reads, “Defendant Casey Cutler did something that was a substantial step toward the production of a biological toxin.”
Cutler, unfortunately, had a roommate just as easily confused as he. The man contracted bronchitis – “flu like symptoms” according to an FBI agent’s report – but because he knew of Cutler’s intent, thought he had been poisoned, and went to a local emergency room for treatment.
According to Sands, while local medical personnel were not overly concerned that ricin poisoning was afoot rather than bronchitis, once the word ricin was uttered, it had to be reported to the federal network.
What happened next was exactly what happened in the cases of Danny Milzman and Nicholas Helman last week. The mailed fist of US counter-terror came to town.
Adding confusion was a false positive for ricin lab test on a locket containing part of Casey Cutler’s marijuana stash.
While the test was shown to be in error, and Cutler never made ricin, nor could he have, he was convicted anyway. And in subsequent years he wound up being counted in government statistics on terrorism.
Contrast this with Danny Milzman, who actually did grind castor seeds and extract the result.
Readers can see the picture emerge.
These three men, like Danny Milzman, were really nothing more than petty nuisances. No one was hurt by any of them. And no one could have possibly been hurt in the Cutler incident. There was never any real danger to the public.
But these men received no sympathy. Certainly no one came forward in a big newspaper to speak to their character or what they once might have been. And they received little to no mercy in court.
Jeffrey Levenderis, arrested in 2011, has yet to be even granted a trial.
Danny Milzman, on the other hand, was highly regarded in his high school. At Georgetown he was fast with science answers. He wrote articles with his accomplished father, made ricin only when he knew his roommate was away, carefully and responsibly disposed of some it and confessed in tears to his ex-boyfriend.
Milzman was depressed, emotionally tortured in some way. It would be a waste for his case to turn out as badly as it could.
Just like the men who went to jail, for which things turned out very badly, anyway.
And this analysis is why one reads DD’s blog.
UPDATE, Wednesday: Another judge delays Milzman’s release for a few days pending further cogitation.
1. From the wires, March 25:
After the judge ruled Milzman should be released to home confinement, upon which his parents would immediately take him to Sibley Memorial Hospital for two weeks of psychiatric care. Then, Milzman was ordered to be taken home and not left alone.
Prosecutors immediately requested a 24-hour stay to appeal the decision…
The misery jar.
Progress on a national cybersecurity framework, but trust shattered by Snowden revelations:
During his 2008 presidential campaign, Barack Obama promised to “ensure that his administration develops a Cyber Security Strategy that ensures that we have the ability to identify our attackers and a plan for how to respond that will be measured but effective.”
In the year since our last ruling, the attention devoted to cybersecurity has only increased, partly due to well-publicized breaches of customer data but especially from revelations about National Security Agency surveillance of electronic and telephone traffic.
On Feb. 12, 2013, Obama signed an executive order on “Improving Critical Infrastructure Cybersecurity,” which called for the implementation of a cybersecurity framework launched one year later …
The adoption of the framework is voluntary, but the Department of Homeland Security has established the Critical Infrastructure Cyber Community Voluntary Program, C-Cubed for short, to increase awareness and use of the framework …
So the administration has taken some concrete steps to develop a formal cybersecurity strategy. But the administration’s ability to pitch that strategy to private-sector companies and individuals has been hampered by the continuing stream of revelations based on leaked documents from former NSA contractor Edward Snowden. Whatever trust existed between the government and private companies has taken a serious blow in the post-Snowden era.
“On one hand, we had the Obama administration working for development of increased cybersecurity through its ‘framework’ initiative,” said George Smith, a senior fellow at GlobalSecurity.org. On the other hand, Smith said, the administration was “allowing the NSA to aggressively pursue initiatives that destroy the security and trust in global as well as domestic networks.”
So while Obama has made meaningful strides in creating a cybersecurity strategy, he faces stiffer-than-ever hurdles in implementing such a strategy, due to resistance in Congress as well as public skepticism.
The original — here.
Meta: There’s no skills or brainpower shortage in America. Check the paradox. I’m unemployed, skint, someone detested by corporate America, for even the lowest jobs in the new economy. But I’m the expert.
Danny Milzman, of Georgetown, in better days.
Contrast Danny Milzman’s media story and background with that of Nicholas Todd Helman, the same week.
Both were 19-year-old men/boys. Danny Milzman made ricin at the posh school, Georgetown. He was a National Merit Scholar semi-finalist at Walt Whitman high in Bethesda, a public school for the upper middle class servants of the wealthy in the nation’s capitol. Nicholas Helman wasn’t going to a posh school. He worked at Target, made ricin in his Hatboro neighborhood and held Homeland Security, SWAT and the Hazmat teams off for a couple hours when they arrived.
Danny Milzman was distraught and, perhaps, wanted to hurt someone else or himself and show the world, or acquaintances, at least. Nicholas Helman was upset over being thrown over and, perhaps, wanted to hurt someone else and show the world, or acquaintances, at least. And he sent a scratch-and-sniff ricin letter to his rival.
The Washington Post is on the job:
Prosecutors said Tuesday there is evidence that a Georgetown University student charged last week with possessing the biological toxin ricin may have wanted to poison someone with the powdery substance he learned about from the television show “Breaking Bad” …
Court papers filed Tuesday describe Milzman as an emotional college student who struggled with depression, and vacillated between wanting to hurt himself – and someone else …
During their half hour talk, Milzman told his [Georgetown friend Thomas Lloyd] through tears that he was feeling anxious and unfulfilled by his school work and relationships, according to prosecutors. Milzman told the friend …that he was engaging in “risky behavior.”
Milzman, a member of his high school quiz bowl team who also played ice hockey, told Lloyd that he “scared himself by having ricin” and that he was confiding in his friend because “part of Milzman wanted to be dared to use it and the other part of Milzman wanted to avoid using it,” according to the court filing.
The Washington Post informs Milzman waited for his roommate to be away on the weekend before pounding and extracting his castor seeds.
“Investigators said Milzman first learned about ricin from quiz bowl, online sources and his favorite television show that in its final season includes a plot line involving a ricin poisoning,” reads the newspaper article.
Milzman apparently did not read this blog or any of the many other things I’ve written on ricin over the last ten years. All delivered by online sources, absolutely free.
The internet let Danny Milzman down. It let Nicholas Helman down. It lets everyone down.
It should have sent the message that ricin isn’t easy to make but that turning castor seeds into a powder was an easy way to get in big trouble and there’s not anything particularly special, exotic and fascinating about it.
Instead of that, it gives you:
Plus an ocean of like-minded clickbait and fantasy.
What’s the difference between Danny Milzman and Nicholas Helman?
Not much. Certainly there’s little difference in brain power. They’re both likely to suffer one shit ton of ruin and heartbreak for momentary lapses in judgment and getting caught up in America’s singular fascination with ricin.
However, Milzman is getting a more sympathetic reading because of class and positioning.
Nicholas Helman, of Hatboro, in better days.
Meta: Yes, dear readers, I am now writing post titles every bit the equal of the work turned out by the web portal of imbeciles known as Upworthy! Do you like it?
Due to the environment of lickspittle accidentally designed and imposed by the genius of Google algorithms in Mountain View, the publishing model that is the most successful today is one that delivers clickbait, troll pieces, ridiculous titling designed to poison search and bait & switch titling optimized to poison/rig search.
From the world of the WhiteManistan Blues Band.
Real sweat worn 2003 Gibson Melody Maker, P-90, red, one volume knob, one tone, and a big noise in twang town.
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