HOUSTON – A Louisiana man who is accused of tormenting a Texas A&M University professor to death said he’s innocent as he appeared in federal court Tuesday morning.
Daniel Duplaisir, 37, allegedly used his underage relative to lure Dr. James Aune, 59, into an online relationship that ended with the professor jumping to his death from a campus parking garage. Aune, who chaired Texas A&M’s Department of Communications, committed suicide on Jan. 8.
Duplaisir was arrested on a charge of using a phone and the Internet to blackmail Aune. Duplaisir allegedly demanded $5,000 in hush money. Aune paid Duplaisir $1,000 before committing suicide, according to court documents.
The girl told authorities that Duplaisir took photos and videos of her to use in the scam, and kept a list with the names and phone numbers of men being extorted, according to an affidavit signed by FBI Special Agent Nikki Allen.
Duplaisir has a past conviction in his home state of Louisiana for incest and oral sexual battery. On Tuesday he pleaded innocent to the charges, but he waived his bond hearing, choosing to stay in federal custody through his trial. Duplaisir has a public defender challenging the prosecutor’s case.
“We would not have brought the case if we didn’t think at least there was at least probable cause to charge him and, yes, we do think we can present an adequate case,” said Assistant U.S. Attorney Bob Stabe.
Stabe said the case is only in federal court because it involves interstate transactions.
Duplaisir will go on trial in May.