Decades in prison for man who laced birthday card with ricin

Jail Cell
(WISH photo)

DOYLESTOWN, Pa. (AP) — A suburban Philadelphia man who sent a romantic rival a scratch-and-sniff birthday card laced with the deadly poison ricin was sentenced Monday to 20 to 40 years in prison.

Nicholas Helman, 20, of Hatboro, wept as he said goodbye to his family after being sentenced in Bucks County Court, The Philadelphia Inquirer reported.

Helman pleaded guilty in November to attempted murder, attempted aggravated assault, risking a catastrophe and other crimes.

Prosecutors said he laced a card with a lethal dose of homemade ricin in March 2014, then walked 8 miles to the Warminster home of a man dating his ex-girlfriend and put the card in the mailbox. Helman bragged about the plot to a co-worker, who alerted police, prosecutors said. Authorities stopped the rival from opening the card, and he wasn’t injured.

Helman tearfully told the judge he was “extremely sorry” and wished he could “turn back the clock.”

“I don’t know how or why my mind came to this awful decision,” he said.

Months after his arrest, Helman was charged with asking a fellow inmate to kill an investigating detective and rip out the tongue of the prosecutor. He acknowledged in court having threatened other witnesses and co-workers.

Helman said a fellow inmate counseled him to write such a letter, arguing that he could avoid prison by writing a “crazy” letter that would get him sent to a mental health facility.

Judge Alan Rubenstein displayed little sympathy, calling his crimes “extraordinary” and comparing them to actions of would-be terrorists recruited over the Internet.

“You are bright. You are articulate. You are responsive,” Rubenstein said. “But I don’t think you appreciate the damage you have caused to people very close to you.”

The judge said, however, that he would recommend that he be sent to a Luzerne County facility with a strong mental health program.

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