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The man accused of allegedly trying to extort $250,000 from Paula Deen appeared in court today.
62-year-old Thomas Paculis pled not guilty to felony charges of extortion before a judge in Chatham County, Ga., according to local reports.
He was arrested July 5 by the FBI after he allegedly threatened to release "true and damning" statements made by the disgraced chef if she failed to pay the hefty sum of money.
A federal criminal complaint was filed in the Southern District of Georgia on June 24 (around the time Deen failed to appear on the Today show), alleging the former Food Network star received an email and a follow-up phone call from Paculis, in which he threatened to publicly release information he said "would bring hardship and financial ruin to Deen."
If convicted, Paculis faces up to two years in prison, a $250,000 fine and three years of supervised release. He was reportedly appointed a lawyer by the state of Georgia because he could not afford legal representation.
Paculis is currently out on bail, but he must report to a probation officer as part of the terms of his release.
Meanwhile, Deen's son Bobby married girlfriend Claudia Lovera in a private ceremony in Savannah, Ga. July 13, E! News confirms.
The wedding is a much-needed happy occasion for the celebrity chef, whose reputation has been irreparably damaged after she admitted in a video deposition to using the N-word.
After Deen's controversial confession, a number of sponsors severed their ties with the 66-year-old chef, including the Food Network, Caesars Entertainment Corporation, Smithfield Foods, Sears, JCPenney and Walmart, to name a few. Her cookbook was also dropped by its publisher, despite reaching the No. 1 spot on Amazon.com's best-seller list.
Since Paula's public fall from grace, the beleaguered star has dropped her agent of over 10 years and hired a reported "world class" team of "legal heavy hitters."
She's also added Patricia Glaser to her legal team to provide general insight. The Hollywood powerhouse attorney is famous for representing Keith Olbermann in his lawsuit against CurrentTV and landing Conan O'Brien and his staff a $45 million settlement after the comedian was fired by NBC.
—Additional reporting by Claudia Rosenbaum