BURLINGTON, Vt. – A woman charged with manufacturing the deadly toxin ricin in her Vermont retirement community and testing it on residents was sentenced Thursday to time served and five years of probation and must undergo mental health treatment.
Betty Miller, 71, also was ordered Thursday to pay a $10,000 fine.
Miller, who has an extensive mental health history, is expected to be released Monday when her lawyer said she will undergo at least nine weeks of intensive outpatient mental health therapy at a Bangor, Maine, hospital, where she had been treated before, followed by aftercare.
Miller was arrested last November after telling investigators she made ricin at her home at the Wake Robin community in Shelburne from castor bean plants because she wanted to injure herself.
A federal complaint said she tested the ricin's effectiveness by putting it in residents' food or drinks. No one became seriously ill. She pleaded guilty in May to possessing the deadly toxin.
U.S. District Court Judge Christina Reiss on Thursday rejected a plea agreement that called for three years of supervised release, and instead imposed five years of probation to extend her supervision and a fine, saying it was the best way to protect the public and send a message to Miller that there were many, many costs associated with the offense, including to law enforcement.
Miller told the court Thursday that she learned a lot about herself in prison, including "to be kind and compassionate" and that "friendships are valuable." Judge Reiss said she was pleased to hear that considering the "callousness" with which she said Miller had taken other people's lives into her own hands by exposing them to ricin.
"That was a very uncaring and dangerous thing to do," she said. Ricin is so serious "that it's considered a weapon of mass destruction," Reiss said.
She also said Miller was smart and knew what she was doing, even having to spend a week in the hospital for breathing the deadly agent.
The judge and Miller's lawyer also noted Miller's conduct after the offense, telling a psychologist and later investigators what she had done, and her willingness and desire to get help.
"She's made it very clear that she wishes to resume" serious and lengthy interventions at a facility she was previously at in Maine, Miller's lawyer Paul Volk said. She also paid about $90,000 to in restitution to the Wake Robbin retirement community, he said.
As part of her conditions of release, she must undergo mental health treatment or return to prison, Reiss said, as well as drug testing and must not have any contact with here victims.