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SALT LAKE CITY — The Logan man accused of mailing ricin to the White House and the Pentagon claims he also sent letters with the deadly toxin to the queen of England and Russian President Vladamir Putin, according to court records.
But when told Friday that he would remain in custody pending ongoing legal proceedings, William Clyde Allen III, 39, began to tearfully explain to the federal magistrate that he was looking forward to watching general conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints this weekend and needs to care for his disabled wife.
A federal complaint was filed against Allen Friday as he simultaneously made his initial appearance in court. The 10-page complaint outlines the details of an already unusual case, made even more unusual by Allen's tearful plea in federal court.
Even though the letters Allen sent to President Donald Trump, Secretary of Defense James N. Mattis and U.S. Navy Adm. John M. Richardson contained "small pieces of what appeared to be castor beans and a note with the same message, 'Jack and the Missile Bean Stock Powder,'" U.S. Attorney for Utah John Huber said the case should not be taken lightly.
"These charges are serious. They are no laughing matter," Huber said.
The complaint filed Friday accuses Allen of knowingly threatening to use a biological weapon, and four counts of mailing a threat. A federal grand jury will now consider the allegations on Oct. 17 to decide whether a formal indictment should be filed.
The investigation began earlier this week after letters addressed to some of Washington's top leaders and containing possible ricin were discovered at a shipping office. The letters did not actually enter the White House or the Pentagon.
"Preliminary field testing (of the four letters) yielded positive for ricin," according to the federal complaint filed Friday. On Wednesday, two test results on the letters also both tested positive for ricin.
FBI investigators were led to Allen's home in Logan because he put his return address on all the letters, court documents state.
When interviewed by FBI agents earlier this week, Allen claimed to have also sent letters with castor beans to Attorney General Jeff Sessions, Queen Elizabeth II and Putin, according to the complaint. Huber could not say Friday if those people had received letters from Allen or not.
Allen further explained that he had purchased approximately 100 castor beans from eBay and that he had done research on ricin and castor beans, the complaint states. When asked why he purchased the beans, Allen said "he wanted to have them in case World War III broke out" and further elaborated that "he could make them useful, to bear arms and to defend our nation."
History of threatening officials
Agents say Allen has a history of threatening government officials. In 2015 he sent an email to the CIA "threatening to kill the president if the agency did not stop infringing on his constitutional rights," according to the complaint. The Secret Service interviewed Allen at his home in Logan at that time.
In February 2017, Allen sent a threat to Lackland Air Force Base in Texas with a note stating, "I have a bomb to kill your people," the complaint states. Again, Allen was interviewed by federal law enforcers.
In December, Allen posted a YouTube video on his Facebook page titled "Extracting Cyanide from Apple Seeds with Hydraulic Press," according to court records.
In September, Allen allegedly sent an email to the Utah Department of Public Safety titled, "Multiple Imminent Radiation Attacks," and included his name and phone number.
Change of demeanor in court
During his brief initial appearance in court on Friday, Allen looked around the courtroom, smiling to friends and family members in attendance. A federal defender was appointed to represent him.
But when federal magistrate Judge Dustin Pead told Allen he would remain in custody pending a hearing on Oct. 15, his demeanor changed and in tears he tried to convince Pead to release him.
"It's about me helping my wife putting on her shoes in the morning," he said, telling the judge he needs to help his disabled wife.
His wife, whom Pead acknowledged has spina bifida, was present at the hearing in a wheelchair.
Allen then tearfully told the judge, "I was looking forward to general conference."
'We'll sort all this out'
Outside the courtroom after the hearing, Huber was asked if mental competency is expected to play a role in the prosecution of Allen.
"In cases like this, and we have had a previous case of ricin in Utah, these are always considerations. Why would someone do such a serious thing? Today we saw him in court, appointed him an attorney, and saw him get emotional. These are things the court will consider," Huber said.
"He is now safe. And the intended victims are safe from his conduct. Now, in a civilized way, we will process this case in federal court where his rights will be protected and the victims' rights will be protected. We'll sort all this out."
Allen was convicted of attempted aggravated assault in 2008 and two counts of child abuse in 2005, according to Utah court records. A woman with the same last name as Allen filed for a protective order against him in 2004, court records state.
Allen served in the Navy from 1998 to 2002, according to Navy records. He worked as a damage control fireman apprentice.