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Elvis impersonator wrongly arrested for sending ricin to Obama sues accuser

Federal officials stand outside the house of Paul Kevin Curtis while searching for evidence in Corinth, Mississippi April 18, 2013. REUTERS/
Federal officials stand outside the house of Paul Kevin Curtis while searching for evidence in Corinth, Mississippi April 18, 2013. REUTERS/

By Emily Le Coz

JACKSON, Mississippi (Reuters) - An Elvis impersonator from Mississippi falsely accused of sending ricin-tainted letters to President Barack Obama and other officials filed a lawsuit on Wednesday against the man authorities now believe is the real perpetrator.

Paul Kevin Curtis, who was arrested and released in April, wants an unspecified amount of money from James Everette Dutschke for defamation of character, emotional distress and financial loss.

In June, a grand jury indicted Dutschke for allegedly trying to frame Curtis in the case, sending poisoned letters with phrases lifted directly from Curtis' Facebook account, including, "I am KC, and I approve this message."

Curtis, who has said the alleged frame-up was part of a feud between the two men, was interrogated and jailed for six days while facing international media attention. Both are Mississippi residents.

Although ultimately cleared of wrongdoing, Curtis has had trouble finding work as a performer, said his attorney, Christi McCoy of Oxford, Mississippi.

"His phone just quit ringing after this," she said. "Kevin has really been depressed, really had a hard time with this."

Dutschke was arrested on April 27 and has been held without bond while awaiting trial on five counts. His attorney, Ken Coghlan of Oxford, did not immediately return a call for comment.

Dutschke has pleaded not guilty to the charge of making it appear as if someone else had sent the letters to Obama, a U.S. senator and a Mississippi judge. He also pleaded not guilty to four other charges in the case, including possessing a biological agent, toxin and delivery system for use as a weapon.

If convicted, Dutschke faces a maximum penalty of life in prison.

McCoy said Curtis does not expect any financial gain from his lawsuit. "We're really looking for answers," she said.

Curtis wants to know why he was allegedly framed and why the FBI arrested him without first conducting a more thorough investigation, McCoy said.

The next step, she said, could involve a lawsuit against the government.

"Ultimately," McCoy said, "they're the ones responsible for what happened to him."

(Editing by Sharon Bernstein and Stacey Joyce)

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