“When the defendant stopped the vehicle, the passenger tossed something from the vehicle, exited the vehicle and removed items from the vehicle,” according to the filing.
Gibbs' passenger is not identified in the document, but it does state that all the activity raised the deputy’s “suspicion that there may be contraband in the vehicle.” Gibbs allegedly consented to a search of the car.
“While searching the car, deputy sheriff found a bag of seeds in the glove compartment,” the filing states. Gibbs allegedly identified them as the seeds of the angel’s trumpet, a toxic plant.
“The defendant explained that the seeds were very dangerous and poisonous,” the filing states, adding the deputy gave Gibbs “a verbal warning and allowed him to drive away.”
Gibbs showed up at the hospital on Feb. 2 seeking treatment. Hospital authorities called the police to investigate suspected exposure to ricin. Ricin is a deadly chemical extracted from castor beans sometimes called “poor man’s anthrax.”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention define ricin as a "terrorist or warfare agent" that can be distributed in a variety of ways, including through the air or in water. Untreated, exposure causes organ failure and can kill within three days.
FBI agent and an Army hazardous materials team responded and tested his car, finding traces of ricin and arresting Gibbs. Teams of agents then converged on nearby Morganton to test Gibb’s home for the toxin.
The court filing does not state what authorities believe Gibbs intended to do with the ricin. In the wake of the arrest, Sheriff Kirby said Gibbs had “just a small amount” of ricin "he had been experimenting with." Kirby did not mention the earlier traffic stop at the time.
After his arrest it was revealed Gibbs had
associated himself online
with the Creativity Movement, a small, largely internet-based white supremacist group. Gibbs posted racial slurs and photos of himself on a Creativity forum wearing clothing with the group's symbols.
Every part of the angel's trumpet plant is considered toxic, but it is not illegal to possess in Georgia. There have been attempts to regulate or ban the plant because of its reputation as a hallucinogen. Louisiana, for example, outlawed cultivation of it when it is grown specifically for human consumption.
Likewise, it is not illegal to possess castor beans, but possession of ricin is against federal law. The chemical has been used for decades as a cheap weapon of terror.
Gibbs was not unknown to police at the time of the traffic stop. He was on probation for a 2010 burglary conviction. But Kirby said his deputy had no reason to further investigate the man.
“It does seem strange, but we live in a strange world,” he said. “Where do you go with something like that? The mere possession of something like that isn’t against the law.”
If convicted, Gibbs faces up to five years in prison. His attorney did not reply to a request seeking comment on the prosecution's most recent filing.