By Sarah Robinson/NEMS Daily Journal
TUPELO – More information is emerging on a second man searched in connection with the federal case investigating ricin-laced letters that were sent April 8 to the president, Sen. Roger Wicker and Lee County Judge Sadie Holland.
Tupelo’s James Everett Dutschke, 41, is the latest target of the FBI investigation, and his home and business have been searched this week.
Dutschke has maintained that he is innocent since his name was first mentioned in federal court by an attorney. The man originally charged with mailing the letters, Paul Kevin Curtis, an Elvis tribute artist, was cleared of charges Tuesday.
Similarities between the two men continue to come to light.
Dutschke is a musician and formerly operated Tupelo Taekwondo Plus. He has run unsuccessfully for public office twice in North Mississippi, once against Steve Holland in 2007 as a Republican candidate for the state House of Representatives and later in 2008 as a Democrat for Lee County election commissioner.
Jack Curtis, the older brother of Kevin Curtis, supported Dutschke’s 2007 campaign with a contribution of $600. According to the New York Times, Dutschke was once an employee at Jack Curtis’ insurance business.
In addition to political connections, both men have a history of legal trouble: Curtis has been convicted of simple assault against a then-assistant district attorney and Dutschke has been convicted and is appealing a charge of indecent exposure and is currently facing additional charges of child molestation in Lee County.
Both Dutschke and Curtis admit to having argued in the past but while Curtis claims the feud was ongoing, Dutschke said that he has interacted with Curtis only three times – twice in person and once online.
Curtis said he met Dutschke sometime around 2005 and was told by friends that the two shared common interests. Curtis said at one point Dutschke even suggested he could get a book Curtis was writing printed.
Both Curtis and Dutschke have acknowledged an argument over Curtis posting a Mensa membership certificate on his MySpace page. Curtis claimed to have posted the certificate because he knew it would upset Dutschke, who he believed to be reading his online profiles under an alias.
“It’s a simple act I did to prove he was stalking me,” Curtis said.
The phony Mensa certificate was prominent on Curtis’ Facebook page when he was arrested April 17 by federal officials at his home in Corinth.
The business owned by Dutschke, Tupelo Taekwondo Plus on Rankin Extended, was the focus of the FBI investigation on Wednesday, a day after a search of his home.
This is not the first accusation to involve Dutschke’s business. He reportedly closed the taekwondo studio in January, after he was charged with three counts of child molestation.
He is currently released from jail on a $25,000 bond and is pending trial. According to court documents, Dutschke is not allowed to have any contact with minors as a condition of his release.
City of Tupelo prosecutor Richard Babb confirmed that prior to being charged with molestation, Dutschke was convicted of indecent exposure, a misdemeanor, in early 2013 for an incident that occurred incurred in his neighborhood involving a minor.
He was sentenced to six months in jail but has appealed the conviction and is currently awaiting a new trial, which will not take place until the felony molestation trial is complete.
Prior to opening his own facility, Dutschke worked for Kinetic Kick in Tupelo. Owner Noel McMichael said he dismissed Dutschke from his job as an assistant instructor because “he was conducting himself in a way, outside the school, that was not conducive to our school.” It didn’t involve minors.
Another taekwondo studio owner, Richard Hamner, said Dutschke worked for him both in Meridian and in Hattiesburg. He said while Dutschke ran his facility in Meridian, “the students loved him.”
Hamner said he later fronted another studio in Hattiesburg for Dutschke to manage. He said that after noticing “numerous times” that “cash would be short” and “books would be off,” he reported Dutschke in 1995. Hamner said, Dutschke was charged and pleaded guilty to embezzlement.
According to Curtis’ Facebook page, Curtis practices taekwondo, but his ex-wife said he did not take lessons from Dutschke.
Curtis has faced his own legal battles. Former Lee County Assistant District Attorney David Daniels was awarded a restraining order against Curtis because of an altercation between the two in 2003.
Daniels was hired as a backup musician for a performance Curtis was playing with his brother Jack, also an Elvis impersonator. Daniels claimed that Curtis attacked him after rehearsal. Curtis was subsequently convicted of simple assault.
Both Dutschke and Curtis are active performers. Dutschke is the lead for the band “Dusty and the RoboDrum,” a blues band profiled by the Daily Journal in 2010.
Curtis said he believes Dutschke has intentionally disrupted his career as a performer by calling sponsors and telling them about Curtis’ legal woes.
“I lost 12 really big shows in 2011 and eight in 2012 directly linked to him,” said Curtis.
Curtis also has repeatedly claimed that he was being ‘targeted’ by law enforcement in order to prevent him from talking about an alleged criminal conspiracy involving human organs and body parts that he claims to have uncovered more than 10 years ago.
The book, Missing Pieces, that Curtis said he had initially believed Dutschke was interested in publishing, was about the supposed conspiracy.
The two men have both also had issues with state Rep. Steve Holland and his mother, Judge Sadie Holland, who was a target of the ricin attack.
Family members of the two men also appear to have a connection.
Walter Simpson, a manager at Outback Steakhouse in Tupelo, confirmed Madison Curtis, Curtis’ daughter, and Janet Cayson Dutschke, Dutschke’s wife, have worked together as waitresses at the restaurant for a number of years.
Simpson said he did not believe the two women have ever had any conflict and that the staff at Outback is like a family.
Dutschke did not answer or return phone calls to the Daily Journal on Wednesday.