Arnold Gets Rigged Letter

Calif. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, addresses delegates at Madison Square Garden during the Republican National Convention in New York, Tuesday, Aug. 31, 2004. AP

Authorities have intercepted envelopes that were rigged to ignite when opened and sent to the governors of California and New Mexico. They are among 20 such mailings sent to governors around the country and received since last week.

Three of the letters found earlier caught fire, but no one has been injured.

The letter to Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger was spotted Monday by screeners who routinely inspect letters intended for the governor and other members of the state's executive branch at a California Highway Patrol center in West Sacramento, CHP spokesman Tom Marshall said.

Schwarzenegger's office had no comment Tuesday.

New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson confirmed Tuesday that he also had been sent one of the rigged letters.

Brian Grace, director of mail operations for the California governor's office, said the thick, heavy envelope he spotted Tuesday morning matched the description of letters sent to other governors, including a return address from Nevada's maximum-security Ely State Prison. It was postmarked Sept. 6.

"I called the security staff … so they took it away," Grace said.

Authorities have said they were interviewing correctional officers and inmates at the Nevada prison and have narrowed their investigation to "a person of interest."

Marshall said authorities initially decided "because of the security issue" not to announce the interception. But the CHP confirmed the letter Tuesday after receiving numerous calls asking about bombs and terrorist materials allegedly intended for the governor.

Other governors targeted so far include those in Alaska, Arizona, Colorado, Hawaii, Idaho, Massachusetts, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New York, Oregon, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia and Wyoming.

In addition to the 13 Republican and seven Democratic governors, Nevada's corrections director received a booby-trapped letter.

Federal authorities are investigating the mailings. U.S. Postal officials said sending a letter intended to harm the recipient is a federal felony, with a possible prison sentence up to 20 years.

Some well-known U.S. crimes have been committed through or involving the postal system, including:

  • The deadly poison ricin was found Feb. 2 on a mail-opening machine in the office suite of Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn. The discovery led to a shutdown of three Senate office buildings for several days, and about two-dozen staffers and Capitol police officers underwent decontamination. No one was hurt and no suspect or source for the poison has been identified.

  • Anthrax-laced envelopes were mailed in fall 2001 to government offices and news media. Five people were killed and 17 fell ill, further rattling a nation on edge after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

  • Theodore Kaczynski, a Harvard-trained mathematician now known as the Unabomber, killed three people and wounded 23 others in a 1978 to 1995 mail-bombing spree apparently intended as an attack on the scientific establishment.

  • From July 1976 to July 1977, "Son of Sam" killer David Berkowitz killed six people, wounded seven others and taunted police with a series of letters to investigators and a newspaper columnist. One April 1977 letter read, "I am the 'Monster' — 'Beelzebub' — the chubby behemouth. I love to hunt."
    • Lloyd Vries

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