Man accused of blackmailing A&M professor who committed suicide pleads not guilty
HOUSTON (KTRK) -- Authorities say a blackmail scheme led to a Texas A&M professor's suicide. Now Daniel Duplaisir is answering to extortion charges while appearing in federal court Tuesday morning.
Duplaisir looked frail and somewhat aloof during his court appearance. He was dressed in a green jumpsuit, handcuffed and shackled.
The 37-year-old Louisiana man is in custody on an extortion charge, for allegedly using telephone and internet communication -- including phone calls, texts, voicemails and email -- to threaten and blackmail James Aune, a professor and chair of the communications department at Texas A&M.
Aune, 59, jumped off a campus building in January, ending his own life as a result of the threats.
Prosecutors say it all started in mid-December when Duplaisir took naked photos and video of a teenage female relative and sent them to the professor, who became engaged in a sexually explicit back-and-forth online chat with this girl. Duplaisir then contacted Aune outraged, demanding $5,000 to keep the relationship quiet.
In a text exchange on January 7, Duplaisir wrote, "If I do not hear from you, I swear to God almighty, that the police, your place of employment, students all over the internet, all of them, will be able to see your conversations, texts, pictures you sent."
Moments before Aune took his own life on January 8, the professor wrote back, "killing myself now and you will be prosecuted for blackmail."
Assistant US Attorney Bob Stabe said, "The arraignment involved simply advising Mr. Duplaisir of the charges against him. He entered a formal plea of not guilty, which is all he could do in court today."
Trial is set for May 28. Duplaisir will remain in custody in the Houston area while he awaits trial.
If he's convicted, his maximum punishment is two years behind bars.
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