WASHINGTON (AP) — A Canadian woman was sentenced to nearly 22 years in prison in Washington Thursday in the mailing of a threatening letter containing the poison ricin to then-President Donald Trump at the White House.
Pascale Ferrier, 56, had pleaded guilty to violating biological weapons prohibitions in letters sent to Trump and to police officials in Texas, where she had been jailed for several weeks in 2019.
Her defense attorney Eugene Ohm said Ferrier has no criminal record prior to that and is an “inordinately intelligent” French immigrant who had earned a master’s degree in engineering and raised two children as a single parent.
But in September 2020, prosecutors said Ferrier made the ricin at home in Quebec and mailed the potentially deadly poison derived from processing castor beans to Trump with a letter that referred to him as “The Ugly Tyrant Clown” and read in part: “If it doesn’t work, I’ll find better recipe for another poison, or I might use my gun when I’ll be able to come. Enjoy! FREE REBEL SPIRIT.”
The letter from Pascale Ferrier, which also told Trump “give up and remove your application for this election,” was intercepted at a mail sorting facility in September 2020, before it could reach the White House.
She was arrested trying to enter a border crossing in Buffalo, New York, carrying a gun, a knife and hundreds of rounds of ammunition, authorities said. Investigators also found eight similar letters to law enforcement officials in charge of a Texas jail where she was held after she refused to leave a park area as it closed.
In a winding speech, Ferrier told the judge that she considers herself a “peaceful and genuinely kind person,” but gets angry about problems like unfairness, abuses of power and “stupid rules.” She spoke about feeling like she had done little to support her values while her children were young, and considered herself to be an “activist” rather than a “terrorist.” She expressed little remorse but said, “I want to find peaceful means to achieve my goals,” she said.
U.S. District Judge Dabney Friedrich handed down the 262-month sentence outlined in a plea agreement with prosecutors, which also would expel Ferrier from the country once she is released and require her to be under supervised release for life if she ever returns.
The judge noted a “real disconnect” between the Canadian grandmother who has worked toward another degree while behind bars and the crimes Ferrier pleaded guilty to. She pushed back on Ferrier’s framing of her actions. “That isn’t really activism,” she said. “I hope you have no desire to continue on this path.”
Prosecutor Michael Friedman said the sentence was an “appropriately harsh punishment” that sends a clear message.
“There is absolutely no place for politically motivated violence in the United States of America,” he said. “There is no excuse for threatening public officials or targeting our public servants.”