Alabama man pleads guilty to anthrax hoax

An Alabama man has pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court to conspiracy to mail hoax anthrax letters. reports that Milstead Earl "Mickey" Darden admitted to U.S. District Judge Abdul Kallon that he conspired with Clifton lamar "Cliff" Dodd to mail eight threatening letters on April 24.

Both Darden and Dodd were arrested by U.S. postal inspectors shortly after the eight letters were deposited in a Pell City Post Office drop box. The letters all contained white powder that, after testing, was revealed to not be anthrax.

“These type letters are a threat, not a joke,” U.S. Attorney Joyce White Vance told “When people open or handle letters containing white powder, they fear for their health and must endure medical precautions against poisonous contaminants. The emergency response and required testing on every potentially harmful letter is costly,” she said. “These cases will be prosecuted.”

In his plea agreement, Darden acknowledged to the court that he allowed Dodd to prepare and address the powder containing letters in Darden's truck in the parking lot of a Pell City, Ala., store. Darden then drove Dodd to the post office, where Dodd put the letters into a drop box.

“Tampering with U.S. mail is a serious offense and sending hoax letters to scare postal customers is something that cannot be tolerated,” U.S. Postal Inspection Service Inspector in Charge Martin Phanco said, reports. “Because of the disruption to mail service that such letters cause, the penalties can be just as severe as if they had sent something hazardous.”

Sentencing is set for October 13. The maximum penalty for conspiracy to mail hoax anthrax letters is five years in prison and a $250,000 fine.