Culpability of Shannon Richardson in Ricin Case Foretold in Highly Deceptive Statement to Media Outlet
The admission on June 6 by Shannon Guess Richardson that she had mailed ricin-laced letters to President Barack Obama and New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, after having contacted authorities to implicate her husband, was foreshadowed by the highly deceptive behavior she exhibited in a statement she had made to E! News that was published on June 3.
Richardson was arrested on June 7 after admitting to authorities a day earlier that she had mailed the letters knowing they contained ricin. However, she continued to attempt to shift the blame to her husband, claiming that he had typed them and made her print and mail them.
Her husband, who had been questioned by authorities following Richardson's report to them, said it was actually she who sent the letters, and that she was attempting to frame him. Following that accusation, Richardson sent this statement to E! News:
I really can't say much at all but the accusation couldn't be further from the truth. I would not put my unborn child or other children in danger just to "frame" someone. He simply needed someone to blame for what he has done and I was the obvious person for him to blame. Most of what is being reported in this case is absolutely inaccurate. That's all I can say. Thank you for asking for my side of this instead of running with the inaccuracies many others are publishing.
QVerity's analysis of the statement found that it was laced with deceptive behaviors, and that the extent of the deception was indicative of Richardson's culpability. Every sentence in her six-sentence statement contained single or multiple instances of deception.
In opening her statement with the phrase, "I can’t really say much," Richardson conveyed an unintended message. Deceptive people often betray themselves without realizing it by conveying unintended messages that can be identified by focusing on the literalness of what is being said. Here, the unintended message is likely that she hadn't prepared her story as well as she should have when she initially contacted the authorities. Her lack of preparation was reflected in her deceptive behavior, indicating that she was simply making the story up as she went along.
Especially revealing is that at no point in the statement did Richardson deny attempting to frame her husband. Whereas a truthful person is likely to be eager to express that explicit denial, a deceptive person tends instead to offer convincing statements—statements that are made in an attempt to influence or manipulate perception rather than convey truthful information that is meaningful in the resolution of the matter at hand.
Following the initial unintended message, there is a significant cluster of deceptive behaviors, beginning with a pair of these convincing statements: "[T]he accusation couldn't be further from the truth" and "I would not put my unborn child or other children in danger just to 'frame' someone."
Richardson's next sentence takes the form of attack behavior: "He simply needed someone to blame for what he has done and I was the obvious person for him to blame." Deceptive people often engage in aggression or attack behavior if they feel cornered, especially when the stakes are high. This is a critical or hostile attempt to put the questioner on the defensive in an interview scenario, or to shift the blame elsewhere.
Next in the cluster of deceptive behaviors is Richardson"s use of the exclusion qualifier "most" in the sentence, "Most of what is being reported in this case is absolutely inaccurate." A deceptive person often uses exclusion qualifiers, such as "basically," "for the most part," "fundamentally," and "probably,"to narrow the scope of the response so that it's truthful, but at the same time enables her to withhold certain information that she does not want to disclose.
The same sentence contains more attack behavior: Richardson is attacking the media, inferring that they are wrong in their reporting, or worse, being untruthful.
That sentence was followed by another unintended message: "That’s all I can say." Again, the unintended message appears to be, "I can’t say anything else because I didn’t do a very good job of preparing my story, and I’m making all of this up as I go along."
The final sentence in Richardson's statement begins with an inappropriate level of politeness: "Thank you for asking for my side of this …" This is a deceptive behavior in which the person interjects an overly polite or unexpectedly kind or complimentary comment in order to influence others' perception of her.
The final sentence ends with another exhibition of attack behavior: "…instead of running with the inaccuracies many others are publishing." Again, Richardson is attacking other media outlets in an attempt to remove herself from the spotlight.