Crushing Guilt


A front-page article in Friday's L.A. Times tells the bizarre story of Ken Olsen, a Spokane computer geek who was sentenced to nearly 14 years in prison under a federal terrorism law after whipping up a small batch of ricin. Olsen, who had been using castor beans to make massage oil, says he never intended to harm anyone and extracted the poison just to see if he could. "We don't have to prove that he intended to kill somebody," a federal prosecutor told the jury at his trial. "We don't have to prove he actually used it or attempted to use it. The issues that you have to decide is whether he possessed it, or made it for a non-peaceful purpose." The government argued that there is no legitimate reason to possess ricin, so it's not necessary to prove criminal intent.