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Saturday, September 11, 2004



Lingle receives
suspicious mailing

A dozen governors are sent
letters rigged with matches


Gov. Linda Lingle's office is among more than a dozen governors' offices across the country to receive suspicious letters Thursday and yesterday that may have been rigged to ignite a match when opened.

All of the letters appear to have originated from Nevada's maximum-security Ely State Prison.

State of Hawaii A few were opened, but none of the people who opened them was injured, said Las Vegas FBI Special Agent Todd Palmer. The FBI's Las Vegas office is handling the investigation along with the U.S. Postal Service and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms.

Lingle's senior adviser Lenny Klompus discovered the letter addressed to "Executive Chambers, State Capitol" in the morning's incoming mail yesterday and immediately called the FBI. He did not open the letter because the FBI had alerted Lingle's office Thursday to be on the lookout for suspicious envelopes from Nevada's Ely State Prison, Klompus said.

Honolulu FBI Special Agent in Charge Charlie Goodwin said his office took custody of the letter and intends to send it to the FBI's laboratory in Quantico, Va., for examination.

Palmer said he is trying to arrange for the examination at either a postal service laboratory or ATF laboratory in California, instead of sending it to Virginia.

The FBI and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security also warned state Civil Defense officials Wednesday after other states started receiving the letters, said Ray Lovell, state Civil Defense spokesman.

"We immediately sent out information to state and county agencies across the state for them to screen their mail carefully," Lovell said.

All of the letters have an Ely State Prison return address. They are in legal-size envelopes and have no bulk to them to indicate there could be a device inside, Palmer said. They have also been stamped on the back in red ink indicating they are from the prison, he said.

Letters were sent to Lingle and the governors of Montana, New York, Texas, Massachusetts, Idaho, Nebraska, Colorado, Utah and Nevada -- all Republicans -- and of Wyoming, Washington and Oregon, who are Democrats.

The Montana Capitol was partly evacuated Thursday when the match burned the letter opened there, but it did not cause further damage.

One was also sent to the Nevada corrections director, and was opened by a clerical worker who was surprised when a match lit as she pulled out a blank piece of paper, said Glen Whorton, assistant director for the Nevada Corrections Department.

"Nobody was injured. It's very small. It was just a letter, set up so that a match or a match head flares when you open it," he said.

Federal and state investigators questioned two Ely inmates Thursday because one or the other was listed as the sender on the envelopes, Whorton said.

He said authorities are not sure whether the two inmates, whom he declined to identify, sent the envelopes or if their names and inmate numbers were put on the envelopes by someone else -- in or outside the prison.

More inmates were questioned yesterday, Whorton said.


The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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