Former College Student Pleads Guilty to Unregistered Possession of Ricin
WASHINGTON—Daniel Milzman, 19, of Bethesda, Md., pled guilty today to a federal offense stemming from the discovery of a plastic bag of lethal ricin in a dormitory room where he was staying while he was a student at Georgetown University.
The guilty plea was announced by U.S. Attorney Ronald C. Machen Jr., and Andrew G. McCabe, Assistant Director in Charge of the FBI’s Washington Field Office.
Milzman pled guilty to a charge of unregistered possession of a biological agent or toxin. He appeared before the Honorable Ketanji Brown Jackson in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. The plea agreement, which is contingent upon the Court’s approval, calls for a prison sentence falling somewhere within the range of a year and a day to two years of incarceration. Following the prison term, Milzman would be placed on three years of supervised release. He also is subject to financial penalties. Sentencing is scheduled for Nov. 10, 2014.
“Daniel Milzman put himself and others in danger by cooking up a deadly poison in his Georgetown dorm room,” said U.S. Attorney Machen. “Today Mr. Milzman owned up to his reckless behavior and acknowledged his crime before a federal judge. He is very lucky that none of his fellow students were hurt when he decided to manufacture this lethal substance.”
“The FBI, along with D.C. Fire and EMS, acted swiftly to respond to this dangerous situation, to investigate the origin of the ricin, which Mr. Milzman has admitted to possessing, and to assess any remaining potential risks to students on campus,” said Assistant Director in Charge McCabe. “Possessing lethal biological toxins such as ricin is illegal, and those who choose to engage in this risky activity will be prosecuted by our partners at the U.S. Attorney’s Office with the full resources of the FBI.”
According to a statement of offense submitted to the Court today, when law enforcement discovered Milzman’s ricin during the early morning hours of March 18, 2014, he was a student at Georgetown and shared a dormitory room in McCarthy Hall with a roommate.
Prior to law enforcement’s recovery of Milzman’s ricin, on the night of March 17, 2014, Milzman contacted a friend, a student Resident Advisor, and asked whether they could meet; subsequently, the two met in the friend’s dormitory room. When meeting with his friend, Milzman asked if they could have a “confidential” conversation. The Resident Advisor agreed.
During their conversation, Milzman produced a double-wrapped plastic bag containing an off-white powdery substance from his backpack and tossed it on the floor. He told the Resident Advisor that the bag contained ricin, and said that he had made the substance over a period of four days, while on a school break.
The Resident Advisor directly asked Milzman if he intended to use the ricin on another undergraduate student with whom the defendant had a previous personal relationship. Milzman simply shrugged. After Milzman left his friend’s dormitory room, law enforcement officials were notified of the possible presence of ricin in Milzman’s room.
In response to receiving information regarding the possible presence of ricin in Milzman’s dormitory room, on March 18, 2014, at about 2:30 a.m., members of the District of Columbia Department of Fire and Emergency Medical Services and law enforcement officers went to Milzman’s room.
Milzman was taken to a lobby on the first floor of the dormitory, where he voluntarily spoke with law enforcement officers. He admitted that he had made ricin and said that he had placed it in a plastic bag inside his desk. A small plastic bag containing a powdery substance was located in Milzman’s desk drawer, exactly where Milzman had said it would be. When speaking with law enforcement, Milzman claimed that he intended to use the ricin on himself.
During the investigation, law enforcement confirmed that between Feb. 13 and Feb. 19, 2014, Milzman used key words when searching the Internet that are associated with ricin. Law enforcement also confirmed that from Jan. 1, 2014, through March 18, 2014, Milzman watched various episodes of the television show, “Breaking Bad;” in approximately 13 of the episodes, ricin was used as a weapon to injure or kill someone.”
According to calculations discussed in the Textbook of Military Medicine, Medical Aspects of Chemical and Biological Warfare, a publication of the U.S. Army, and in light of the tests performed on the ricin in this case, the ricin toxin produced by Milzman could have been lethal to an average person weighing 220 pounds, if either inhaled or injected.
Milzman has been in custody since his arrest last March.
In announcing the plea, U.S. Attorney Machen and Assistant Director in Charge McCabe commended the work of those who investigated the case from the FBI’s Washington Field Office. They also expressed appreciation for the assistance that was provided by the Metropolitan Police Department (MPD), the District of Columbia Department of Fire and Emergency Medical Services, the District of Columbia Department of Forensic Sciences; the Georgetown University Police Department; and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s National Bioforensic Analysis Center. They acknowledged the work of those who handled the case from the U.S. Attorney’s Office, including Assistant U.S. Attorney David Mudd; Paralegal Specialist Rayneisha Booth; Legal Assistant Donice Adams, and former Summer Law Clerks Ryan Sellinger and Samantha Goldberg-Seder.
Finally, they commended the work of Assistant U.S. Attorneys Maia L. Miller and Frederick W. Yette, of the National Security Section, who are prosecuting the matter.