COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — An Ohio man is in custody after being accused of sending about three-dozen feces-filled letters to lawmakers around the country, including Ohio’s 25 Republican state senators in early July.
Police arrested Richard Steinle, a 77-year-old from Mogadore, Ohio, and former Portage County Common Pleas Court mediator on Friday. Steinle is charged with sending “injurious articles as nonmailable,” violating a federal law that prohibits mailing certain things, including hazardous material, according to court records.
The misdemeanor charge carries a maximum prison sentence of one year and a $100,000 fine. A message seeking comment was left with Steinle's lawyer.
The feces mailed in early July prompted an investigation by the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, but investigators said Steinle has been sending such letters since August 2021 to elected officials in Washington D.C., Kentucky, California and Ohio.
Mailroom employees in the Ohio Statehouse and post offices in Cleveland and Akron intercepted the 25 letters, which never made it to their intended recipients. The return addresses on the letters were deemed fake. Some letters contained words such as “pig” and “racist” on them, according to court records.
In late July, investigators for the U.S. Postal Inspection service conducted surveillance on Steinle's home after a tip from another court employee that Steinle might be involved in sending the letters. Investigators witnessed Steinle mailing a letter while wearing a glove and after retrieving the letter, determined it to be contaminated with feces. The letter was addressed to Republican U.S. Rep. Jim Jordan, according to court records.
A message was left with the U.S. Postal Inspection Service seeking comment. It is not clear if the feces were human or animal.
Senate GOP spokesperson John Fortney called the incident in early July “outrageous” and a serious health risk.
“This type of biohazard attack doesn’t just stop with the people it’s directed towards,” Fortney said. “This is something that could potentially affect every single employee at the Ohio Statehouse, regardless of their political affiliation.”
Steinle was released on a $20,000 unsecured bond and his next hearing is set for Aug. 25.
Samantha Hendrickson is a corps member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on undercovered issues. Follow Samantha Hendrickson on Twitter.