CARSON CITY, Nev. (AP) — The suspicious powder labeled as anthrax that prompted the evacuation of the Nevada Supreme Court was sent by an inmate at a southern Nevada prison, authorities said Friday.
Supreme Court spokesman Bill Gang confirmed that the letter, which was addressed only to the “Nevada Supreme Court” and was opened Thursday, was tracked to an inmate at a prison in Indian Springs northwest of Las Vegas.
It wasn’t immediately clear if the inmate was housed at High Desert State Prison or Southern Nevada Correctional Center, both of which are in Indian Springs.
The court receives hundreds if not thousands of motions or correspondence directly from inmates each year.
Justices were briefed earlier in the day on the investigation, which is being handled by the FBI because it involves the U.S. Postal Service. FBI spokeswoman Bridget Pappas said she could not confirm or deny an investigation.
Natalie Collins, spokeswoman for the U.S. attorney’s office in Las Vegas, said her office cannot comment on any possible investigations. No charges had been filed by midday.
The inmate’s name has not been publicly released, but he’s had no dealings with the court, Gang said.
“He has no case pending before the Supreme Court and has not had a case before the Supreme Court,” Gang said.
Four court employees — two clerks, a maintenance worker and the deputy administrative director — were near the envelope when it was opened Thursday around 12:45 p.m. They were isolated as a precaution and the building was evacuated until a hazmat team determined the white powder inside was not hazardous. The letter claimed the powder was anthrax, a bacterium found naturally in soil that commonly affects domestic and wild animals.
Although it is rare, people can get sick if they come in contact with anthrax spores, infected animals or contaminated animal products.
According to the Department of Correction’s website, all outgoing mail must be stamped on the back with the name of the institution from where it is sent. The inmate’s name and offender number must be included in the return address portion of the envelope.
In an email to The Associated Press late Friday, an unidentified department public information officer said outgoing mail “is not opened or inspected unless we are notified of possible suspicious or prohibited activity.”