Jump to search Jump to main navigation Jump to main content Jump to footer navigation

Global Security Newswire

Daily News on Nuclear, Biological & Chemical Weapons, Terrorism and Related Issues

Produced by
NationalJournal logo

Ricin Conviction Nets 13-Year Prison Sentence

A U.S. district judge yesterday sentenced a Washington state man to 13 years in prison for developing and possessing the lethal chemical ricin (see GSN, July 18).

In July, a jury convicted 49-year-old Kenneth Olsen of “producing and possessing a biological agent … for use as a weapon” and “producing, owning and possessing a chemical weapon” (David McGlinchey, GSN, Oct. 29).

Prosecutors said that Olsen had extensively researched ricin and methods of killing people with the toxin. Police officials testified that Olsen kept ricin at work and might have planned to use the poison to kill a boss or his wife.

“He took steps to accumulate the raw materials and equipment necessary to produce a poison,” U.S. District Judge Frem Nielsen said during the sentencing. “This conduct was dangerous and reckless,” Nielsen added.

Olsen’s family stood by him and unsuccessfully asked the judge to dismiss the conviction or to impose a light sentence.

“This is a dangerous individual,” said Assistant U.S. Attorney Earl Hicks. “We can understand his family looking away from the obvious facts,” he added (Nicholas Geranios, Associated Press/Seattle Times, Oct. 29).

At his sentencing hearing, Olsen denied accusations that he planned to harm someone with the ricin.

“None are true,” he said. His defense attorneys have said that he was merely inquisitive.

Nielsen, however, said that “there really was no legitimate purpose” for having the poison. “There were dozens and dozens of people who had access to that area, to that airspace,” the judge said, adding that it was “a godsend none of it escaped” (Bill Morlin, Spokane Spokesman-Review, Oct. 28).

Note to our Readers

GSN ceased publication on July 31, 2014. Its articles and daily issues will remain archived and available on NTI’s website.

NTI Analysis

  • Latin America and the Caribbean 1540 Reporting

    Oct. 20, 2014

    This report is part of a collection examining implementation of United Nations Security Council Resolution 1540, which requires all states to implement measures aimed at preventing non-state actors from acquiring NBC weapons, related materials, and their means of delivery. It details implementation efforts in Central America, South America and the Caribbean to-date.

  • UNSCR 1540 Resource Collection

    Oct. 6, 2014

    The UNSCR 1540 Resource Collection examines implementation of United Nations Security Council Resolution 1540, which requires all states to implement measures aimed at preventing non-state actors from acquiring NBC weapons, related materials, and their means of delivery. It details implementation efforts in all of the regions and countries of the world to-date.

Country Profile

Flag of United States

United States

This article provides an overview of the United States’ historical and current policies relating to nuclear, chemical, biological and missile proliferation.

Learn More →