The Logan man charged with mailing ricin to President Donald Trump, the FBI director and the Pentagon — who says he also mailed the poison to Queen Elizabeth II and Russian leader Vladimir Putin, among others — made his first court appearance Friday.
William Clyde Allen III was not asked to enter a plea to the five counts that the U.S. attorney’s office entered against him. The first count carries a penalty of up to life in prison — and up to 10 years for each of the additional counts.
He’s charged with threatening to use the biological toxin and with mailing threats in envelopes that tested positive for ricin to Trump, Secretary of Defense James Mattis, Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John M. Richardson and FBI Director Christopher Wray.
According to an affidavit from the FBI, Allen admitted to mailing the envelopes — which included his return address — and placing a castor bean in each one. He added that he'd sent “letters with the same contents to Attorney General Jeff Sessions, the Queen of England, Russian President Vladimir Putin and the secretary of the Air Force.”
“These charges are serious,” U.S. Attorney for Utah John Huber said after the brief hearing. “They’re no laughing matter.”
The letters “included a note that read, 'Jack and the Missile Bean Stock Powder'” and contained what “appeared to be ground castor beans.”
Ricin is a deadly toxin. In purified form, a dose the size of a few grains of salt can be fatal. It's derived from castor beans, which can also be deadly if ingested.
Huber did not say whether there’s any evidence of more than the four letters that were intercepted; the investigation is ongoing. And, he added, the five charges against Allen are “temporary in nature,” and there may be more at a hearing set for Oct. 18.
Allen answered “Yes, sir,” to several questions from U.S. District Court Magistrate Judge Dustin Pead, until the topic of an upcoming bail hearing — scheduled for Oct. 15 — came up.
“It's about me helping my wife put her shoes on in the morning,” Allen said, breaking into tears as he looked at his wife, who was in a wheelchair in the back of the courtroom, and mouthing, “I love you.”
“You've been a big help to her,” Pead said, noting that Allen's wife has spina bifida.
Allen, who had looked calm and smiled often to that point, tearfully added, “I was looking forward to General Conference, but that’s all right.” The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints' twice-yearly gathering is set for Saturday and Sunday.
Allen’s wife and other family members declined to comment as they left the courthouse.
Asked whether he believes Allen's mental state may be an issue in the case, Huber said, “There are always questions. Why would someone do such a serious thing?”
Huber also declined to talk about a possible motive. The FBI affidavit indicates that Allen “did not elaborate with regards to the message he intended to convey.”
Allen told investigators he had purchased 100 castor beans online and that “he wanted to have them in case World War III broke out.”
He was taken into custody at his home in Logan on Tuesday. The FBI found the remaining castor beans in his basement.
According to the FBI affidavit, Allen has “issued numerous threats” against government officials. In 2015, he emailed the CIA threatening to kill then-President Barack Obama “if the agency did not stop infringing on his constitutional rights”; in 2017, he emailed a bomb threat to Lackland Air Force Base" in Texas; and, in 2018, he sent an email to the Utah Department of Public Safely about “multiple imminent radiation attacks.”
Allen, a 1997 graduate of Layton High School, served in the Navy from 1998 to 2002. In 2004, he was charged with child sex abuse; he pleaded guilty to lesser charges of neglect and abuse. That same year, a woman obtained a protective order against him.
In 2008, Allen pleaded guilty to attempted aggravated assault and was sentenced to prison. He was released in 2011.