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Chemist Sentenced for Possessing Cyanide

U.S. Attorney’s Office February 28, 2011
  • Western District of Missouri (816) 426-3122

KANSAS CITY, MO—Beth Phillips, United States Attorney for the Western District of Missouri, announced that an Independence, Missouri man was sentenced in federal court today for illegally possessing potassium cyanide.

Hessam S. Ghane, 61, of Independence, Missouri, was sentenced by U.S. District Chief Judge Kathryn H. Vratil of the District of Kansas to eight years and one month in federal prison without parole. Ghane has been incarcerated for more than six years during numerous mental evaluations, hearings as to his competency to proceed, and appeals from the determinations made after those hearings.

Ghane was convicted following a jury trial on Dec. 1, 2010, of possessing a chemical weapon. Ghane is a naturalized citizen from Iran. A chemist with a Ph.D., he was employed with the U. S. Army Corps of Engineers until 1993, and taught chemistry at Maple Woods Community College in 1996 and 1997.

Evidence presented during the trial indicated that Ghane unlawfully possessed 177 grams of potassium cyanide, a highly toxic chemical that is fatal in even small doses, which he stole from the chemistry laboratory at Maple Woods Community College. The government alleged that Ghane possessed the chemical, which would be a sufficient amount to kill several hundred people, either to commit suicide or to harm federal employees.

Independence, Missouri police officers discovered the potassium cyanide under Ghane’s kitchen sink while executing a search warrant at his apartment on Feb. 5, 2003. Ghane had told an emergency room physician about the chemical when he was transported to Overland Park Regional Hospital a day earlier after calling a suicide hot line.

This case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney D. Michael Green. It was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Independence Police Department.

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