Hessam Ghane's cyanide is going to get him eight years and a
month in federal prison without parole.
Ghane, a 60-year-old naturalized U.S. citizen from Iran, was convicted in December of
possessing a chemical weapon -- cyanide -- that he kept under his kitchen sink. Prosecutors presented evidence at trial that Ghane possessed 177 grams
of potassium cyanide, which is fatal in even small doses. They said he'd
stolen the cyanide from a chemistry
lab at Maple Woods Community College. Ghane allegedly possessed the
chemical, with the potential to kill
several hundred people, to either commit suicide or harm federal
The Kansas City Star reported that authorities suspect Ghane of sending a
letter laced with a harmless white powder from his Leavenworth jail cell
to U.S. District Judge Kathryn Vratil, who presided over his case.
He denied sending the letter.
In February 2003, Ghane was admitted to an
Overland Park, Kansas,
emergency room because he had threatened suicide
using cyanide, which he had acquired through his years as a scientist. Police
searched Ghane's home in Independence, Missouri, and found a
bottle containing 75 percent potassium cyanide. Ghane told the cops that he
didn't know it was illegal to possess the chemical.
chemist with a doctorate, was employed by the U.S. Army Corps
of Engineers until 1993 and taught chemistry at Maple Woods Community
College in 1996 and 1997.
As we previously reported, Ghane has received several mental evaluations. According to court documents, Ghane had delusions that his prosecution was part of a
vast government conspiracy dating back to the early '90s because he
had refused to work as a spy for the CIA.
The district court found that Ghane was not competent to stand trial.
Ghane reportedly refused to take the anti-psychotic medication recommended by
his examiners, so he wasn't committed to state custody for treatment. The court issued an order
granting permission to forcibly medicate Ghane, but Ghane eventually
agreed to take the meds, and in 2005, he was sent to a facility in Leavenworth, Kansas, to await trial.
Ghane had a trial date
set for January 9, 2006, but prior to that date, his attorneys contacted
the court with concerns that Ghane's delusions had returned. An
evaluator again examined Ghane and discovered that the psychiatric staff at Leavenworth had stopped medicating him. Determinations as to Ghane's
competency for trial ping-ponged several more times. (At
one point, Ghane sent a complaint to the Missouri Bar, stating, "I have no
dought that my attorneys have sold me to the Prosecutor.")
*Nadia Pflaum contributed to this report.