Hatboro man offered deal in ricin case

A Hatboro man who allegedly sent a ricin-laced birthday card to the man dating his ex-girlfriend tentatively agreed Thursday to a plea deal with prosecutors that would allow him to avoid a rarely used weapons of mass destruction charge.

Antonetta Stancu, a Bucks County deputy district attorney, said Thursday that her office would file the additional count, among others, against Nicholas Todd Helman if he failed to plead guilty to attempted murder, aggravated assault, risking a catastrophe, stalking, and other charges.

Stance said her office could add second counts of stalking and risking a catastrophe as well as the weapons of mass destruction charge. Helman already faces a maximum sentence of nearly 50 years in prison if he pleads guilty to the current charges. The additional counts, if he risks a trial, could add 20 years to the maximum sentence.

Helman, 19, agreed to the deal Thursday morning in Warminster District Court, where a preliminary hearing was scheduled. He waived the proceeding. The plea deal must be finalized before a county judge.

Helman allegedly placed the scratch-and-sniff birthday card in the mailbox of the man's Warminster home in early March. Police intercepted the card after learning about it from one of Helman's coworkers, to whom Helman bragged at work, court records stated.

Authorities said they found additional ricin, a toxic substance made from castor seeds, in Helman's Hatboro home.

Stance said her office could still file the additional charges of using weapons of mass destruction and risking a catastrophe but is holding off in the hope that Helman agrees to the deal. His public defender, Joe Haag, declined to comment.

As he was led back to jail from District Court, Helman offered statements to reporters that seemed to have nothing to do with the case.

He referred to a woman named "Ms. Woods" as a "power-controlling control freak." He also talked about a man named "Woody," saying he should "cheer up."

Stance said neither person was involved in the case but declined to elaborate.