Daniel Milzman (COL ’16) was charged Friday afternoon with possession of a biological toxin after police found ricin in his room on the sixth floor of McCarthy Hall early Tuesday.
Federal court documents indicate that Milzman, 19, showed a resident assistant a bag of what he claimed was ricin late Monday. According to the affidavit, the RA reported the matter to Counseling and Psychiatric Services, who in turn contacted the Georgetown University Police Department.
Milzman, a 2012 graduate of Walt Whitman High School in Montgomery County, Md., is being held until a detention hearing scheduled for Tuesday. If convicted of possession of a biological toxin, he could face up to 10 years in prison.
Summoned by GUPD, D.C. Fire/EMS conducted a “hazardous materials entry” of Milzman’s McCarthy 6 room on Tuesday morning. Once inside, officers discovered a “small plastic bag containing a powder substance.” Tests at two labs, one run by the D.C. government and the other by the Department of Homeland Security, confirmed the substance was ricin.
In total, Milzman had 123 milligrams of the substance in his possession; within that, the concentration of toxin was 7.7 micrograms per milligram. According to the affidavit, a lethal dose of ricin is approximately three to five micrograms if the substance is inhaled or injected and 20 milligrams per kilogram if ingested.
Adjunct professor William Daddio, who teaches the course “Bioterrorism” at the Georgetown University Medical Center, explained how that amount of ricin could be used.
“With the amount he had under the potency according to the lab tests, in order to potentially kill somebody, they would need to inhale it, which wouldn’t be hard to do, or be injected with it, which, as you would suspect, would be fairly simple,” Daddio said.
In an interview with the Federal Bureau of Investigation on Tuesday, Milzman told investigators that he researched creating ricin on his iPhone, finding a website with instructions on how to produce ricin at home. Court documents say Milzman purchased material to make the substance at Home Depot and the American Plant Company — a scene Daddio also sees as realistic.
“The process of extracting it isn’t overly complicated, so high school chemistry should do the trick for you,” Daddio said.
The affidavit paints a picture of Milzman working alone in his room, wearing goggles and a dust mask, both of which were later seized by the FBI. Milzman produced the the ricin a month ago and stored it in his room in plastic bags. A former hockey player in high school, Milzman reportedly secured the bags with hockey tape.
Although the affidavit contains no information about Milzman’s potential motive, Thomas Lloyd (SFS ’15), the RA who brought the ricin to the attention of the university, told The Voice anonymously on Wednesday that Milzman “indicated he intended to use the substance on another student.” Lloyd confirmed to The Hoya he made that statement but declined to comment further because of his potential role in the ongoing investigation.
FBI spokeswoman Jacqueline Maguire did not specify any information regarding a motive. “At this point we don’t have details to provide on that,” Maguire said.
Milzman’s father, Dave Milzman, is research director in the Department of Emergency Medicine at MedStar Georgetown University Hospital. With his father, Milzman has co-authored two articles in the Canadian Journal of Emergency Medicine. His brother, Jesse Milzman (COL ’15), also attends Georgetown.
At Georgetown, Milzman is founder and captain of Georgetown University Quiz Bowl and a member of the Secular Student Alliance. He studies physics and math on a pre-med track.
Joe Laposata (COL ’16), a member of the SSA and Quiz Bowl with Milzman, said he was surprised by the news.
“He seemed like a pretty normal guy,” Laposata said. “The only reason I think he would make ricin was to use it or feel powerful, or both.”
A student who shares friends with Milzman said Milzman had told friends that he was making ricin before the situation became clear to university law enforcement.
“I don’t think he ever would have used it. He simply wanted to prove that he could, and he boasted about it,” said the student, who requested anonymity.
Danny Onorato, a partner at Schertler & Onorato, is representing Milzman. Onorato declined to comment ahead of Tuesday’s hearing.
University spokeswoman Stacy Kerr and GUPD Chief of Police Jay Gruber have not responded for requests for comment.
Hoya Staff Writers Rob DePaolo, TM Gibbons-Neff, Sheena Karkal, Suzanne Monyak, Mallika Sen and Ian Tice contributed reporting.
Correction: An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated that Milzman had 123 milligrams of ricin in his possession, enough to kill multiple individuals. 123 milligrams was the total amount of substance produced; within that the concentration of toxin was 7.7 micrograms per milligram. Additionally, the lethal dose of ricin if inhaled is 20 milligrams per kilograms if ingested, not 20 milligrams as stated previously.