Massachusetts inmate pleads not guilty to anthrax hoax

An inmate at the Massachusetts state prison in Shirley pleaded not guilty on Wednesday to sending fake anthrax to the Hampden District Attorney's office in September.

Derick Maldonado, a former Springfield resident, pleaded not guilty to two counts of possessing or controlling a hoax device or material and one count of using the threat of a dangerous chemical or biological agent. Maldonado entered the plea during his arraignment in Hampden Superior Court, reports.

On September 20, two envelopes that contained a white powder arrived separately at the district attorney's office and at the office of Judge C.J. Moriarty. The letters triggered a regional hazardous material emergency after one letter was opened by a staffer for District Attorney Mark G. Mastroianni's office. The courthouse shut down and the office of the district attorney was quarantined for four hours.

The powder was eventually determined to be a harmless substance - palmatic acid. Palmatic acid is commonly used in soap, according to

Maldonado is being held in state prison on a conviction for using a firearm in an assault and battery case. He admitted to sending the envelopes with the intent of committing a crime so that he could be transferred to a federal prison. Maldonado's pre-trial hearing is set for August 15.