Man charged in threatening letter case

Judge refuses bond request, mental health in question
February 11, 2009 2:32:21 PM PST
A suburban man appeared in court Wednesday, accused of sending threatening letters to politicians, including Chicago Mayor Richard Daley. In all, there were three series of threatening letters sent to city and county officials. On Monday afternoon, the FBI raided the home of Ronald Haddad, 28, in River Forest and arrested Haddad. The home, belonging to his parents, is where he has lived all his life.

Haddad has been charged with making a threatening interstate communication. Prosecutors say that over the last few years he railed against corruption and the price of oil, among other things, in at least 25 letters to Mayor Daley and others. Not only was his displeasure expressed in profanity, the prosecution says his letters were laced with suspicious substances.

In court, federal prosecutors outlined how Haddad was arrested one day after a federal joint terrorism task force executed a warrant at his home Monday. The FBI says Haddad sent letters, packages and e-mails to various Illinois public officials -- including Mayor Daley, state senators and Aldermen Bernard Stone -- and many threatened recipients would be killed. Haddad's lawyer asked for the suspect to be put under house arrest. He was held without bond until a Friday hearing.

"Any time public officials get mysterious letters in regards to any substance in there, that is a frightening experience for any public official," Daley said.

The arrest is the culmination of an investigation that began in December, 2007, after five people in Chicago, all of whom were city or Cook County elected officials, received letters containing a white powder. The FBI sent samples to its labs in Virginia. Later it was determined to be landscaping lime.

In June 2008, an additional series of letters was sent to seven people. Each contained a brown granular substance, later determined to be a lawn fertilizer.

The most recent letters were sent in January to seven people who received a shotgun shell with a wire attached to the primer. None of the shells detonated and no injuries were reported but the FBI says they posed a real danger.

"When people hear terrorism, they think of international terrorism. But we also investigate individuals or groups involving domestic terrorism. This case certainly qualifies as that," said Ross Rice, FBI.

Haddad had previously launched several civil actions against Oak Park police, and Dominican University saying his civil rights had been violated. The River Forest police played a key role in his arrest, the FBI says, because they encountered him several times, including when he was charged with stalking one of their police officers. He was found not guilty.

"He's only been charged with one count. But as you gathered from reading through the complaint, there were multiple counts here that could be charged if the U.S. Attorney's office so decides," said Rice.

Haddad, who is being held in the Metropolitan Correctional Center, faces up to 10 years in prison, if convicted on the one criminal count against him.