A man indicted on felony charges of extorting Paula Deen pleaded not guilty before a U.S. Magistrate Judge in Chatham County on Tuesday morning.
Thomas George Paculis, 62, of Newfield, NY, who used to live in Savannah and Augusta, was arrested July 5 by FBI agents and deputies from the Tompkins County Sheriff' Office in New York.
Federal charges were filed on June 24 in the Southern District of Georgia. It was filed the same day the details of Deen's video deposition in the harassment and discrimination lawsuit made headlines.
Paculis sent an email and phone call to Deen's attorney asking for $250,000 in exchange for not disclosing "true and damning" statements that Deen made, according to an FBI news release.
Paculis is accused of indicating that the information he released "would bring hardship and financial ruin to Deen," according to the FBI.
The charges can bring up to two years in prison and a $250,000 fine and three years of supervised release.
The state appointed Paculis a lawyer because he could not afford one.
He is out on bail and must report to a probation officer as part of his release. He would have to post a $10,000 unsecured fee if he violates his bond.
He must surrender his passport, he cannot contact the victim and is restricted to the Northern U.S. District of New York and Chatham County and cannot have a firearm. He also may be subject to drug testing.
He has to contact his probation officer within 72 hours if he has an run-in with police officers.
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