Man cleared in ricin letters case sues 2nd suspect

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) - An Elvis impersonator who was ultimately cleared of charges that he sent poison-laced letters to President Barack Obama and others has filed a defamation lawsuit against the current suspect in the case.

The lawsuit filed Wednesday in Alcorn County Circuit Court in Mississippi says James Everett Dutschke framed Paul Kevin Curtis when he sent ricin-tainted letters on April 8 to Obama, U.S. Sen. Roger Wicker and Sadie Holland, a Mississippi judge.

Curtis says he was subjected to a terrifying ordeal that began April 17 when he was arrested outside his home in Corinth, Miss., when he and his dog "Moo Cow" were heading to Curtis' ex-wife's house.

The charges were dropped six days later when the investigation shifted to Dutschke.

Curtis is an entertainer and Elvis impersonator who describes himself as a singer and songwriter.

"Dutschke's actions caused Curtis to lose income in that once he was arrested and portrayed as a terrorist and a criminal he was no longer marketable in his chosen field," the lawsuit said.

The lawsuit seeks damages in an amount to be determined by a jury.

Christi McCoy, Curtis' lawyer, said Thursday that the government is responsible for Curtis' arrest, but Dutschke was the one who "put the wheels in motion."

"This does not in any way negate the responsibility of the government," she said.

The letters contained language that Curtis had often used on his Facebook page, including the line, "I am KC and I approve this message." The letters also contained the phrase "Missing Pieces," the same title as an unpublished book Curtis wrote about his belief that there's a black market for body parts in the United States.

Holland, a Lee County Justice Court judge, was the only intended recipient to receive a letter. The others were intercepted before reaching Obama or Wicker.

After his arrest, Curtis said he was framed and pointed investigators to Dutschke, who he had feuded with him over the years.

Dutschke was arrested April 27 at his home in Tupelo.

Dutschke is charged in U.S. District Court in Oxford with five counts, including developing, producing and stockpiling ricin and threatening the president.

The indictment says Dutschke mailed the letters in part to retaliate against Curtis.

Dutschke is being held without bond. He has an Oct. 7 trial date, but his new lawyer has asked to delay it after two public defenders asked to be removed from the case.

Ken Coghlan, who represents Dutschke in the criminal case, did not immediately respond to a phone message Thursday.

Dutschke, a martial arts instructor who had unsuccessfully run for public offices in Mississippi, has denied any involvement.

Curtis' lawsuit says that he made comments about Dutschke online after Dutschke was arrested in 2012 on charges of lewd behavior and in 2013 when Dutschke was charged with child molestation.

"The two men developed a distrust and dislike for one another and both made their feelings known in a variety of ways, including on the social media website Facebook.com," the lawsuit says.

In 2007, Dutschke ran in an election against Democratic state Rep. Steve Holland, the son of the Mississippi judge who received one of the letters.

Authorities said that a dust mask Dutschke removed from his martial arts studio and dumped in a nearby trash can tested positive for ricin.

Authorities also said he used the Internet to make three purchases of castor beans, from which ricin is derived, and researched how to make the poison.

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Follow Holbrook Mohr on Twitter at http://twitter.com/holbrookmohr


(Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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