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The man accused of attempting to extort $250,000 from Paula Deen pleaded not guilty during a court hearing Tuesday in Savannah, Ga.
A federal judge placed 62-year-old Thomas George Paculis on $10,000 bond, reports CNN, citing court documents.
Paculis was arrested earlier this month in Newfield, N.Y., where he lives. He formerly resided in the Savannah and Augusta, Ga., areas.
He is said to have made contact with Deen’s lawyer in June with threats. That month, the embattled celebrity cook saw her culinary empire start to unravel when a deposition leaked in an ongoing harassment lawsuit brought by former restaurant worker Lisa Jackson. Deen admitted to having used the N-word, and in the fallout over her confession, lost her contract with the Food Network as well as her deals with a number of companies including Wal-Mart, Target and Home Depot.
Charges against Paculis were filed June 24 in the U.S. Southern District of Georgia. According to the FBI, Paculis — who is also said to have reached out to Jackson’s lawyer, Matthew Billips — wrote in an e-mail to Deen’s attorney, Greg Hodges: “The statements are true and damning enough that the case for Jackson will be won on it’s [sic] merit alone. … There is a price for such information.”
Deen told the FBI she didn’t know Paculis.
CNN reports his ex-wife as saying that he had owned a restaurant in Savannah, where Deen and her family operate two restaurants, The Lady and Sons and Uncle Bubba’s Oyster House.
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