I DIDN’T DO IT: upcoming documentary about a Mississippi man framed for sending ricin-laced letters to Obama…
by Coop Cooper
Directly after the Boston Marathon bombing in April of 2013, Federal authorities intercepted deadly ricin-laced letters addressed to President Obama, Sen. Roger Wicker (R-MS) and a Tupelo Judge Sadie Holland. The Feds traced the letters back to Elvis/celebrity impersonator Paul Kevin Curtis in Corinth, MS where they raided his home, arrested him and charged him with federal crimes that could have potentially put him away for life. In a bizarre twist, the charges against Curtis were suddenly dropped when evidence was uncovered that he was framed by Tupelo karate instructor Everett Dutschke who apparently had a long-standing feud with Curtis. Although Curtis was cleared of charges, he was released from jail with his home destroyed by the raid, his reputation ruined and his life in shambles.
Award-winning Oxford filmmakers Melanie Lynn Addington and Daniel Lee Perea obtained the rights to film a documentary on Curtis and the stranger-than-fiction story surrounding his arrest. Addington and Perea recently began an Indiegogo crowd funding campaign to raise $50,000 to produce the documentary with deadline of May 17th to raise the complete funding amount. Here is an interview with the filmmakers of this fascinating, Mississippi-born project…
CC: What gave you the idea to do the documentary and what did you have to do to get the rights to it?
MLA: I was working for the local newspaper, “The Oxford Eagle” at the time and I was really curious as everyone was… I went to the arraignment and I saw Kevin Curtis there and I thought ‘I don’t think this guy could have done something like this.’ My gut said that this does not feel right and then the story broke that he was actually framed and released. I went to lunch with a producer friend of mine and said this would be such a good movie, I wish I could see it made and then we started talking and said ‘Wow, let’s do it ourselves!’ So I contacted his attorneys, Christi McCoy and Hal Nielsen, and told them I was interested in making a film about it. They called back right away and said they would love somebody local to tell the story because they had gotten offers from all over the world and Christine was familiar with what I had done so far. So we got an attorney and got a contract going within four days after it happened.
CC: What have been the biggest challenges, besides funding, in getting it made?
MLA: The subject (Curtis). There is a lot to Kevin Curtis and a lot of sides to him. Everett Dutschke wasn’t the only person he had conflicts with so trying to get people to talk with us… Some people were too eager and some people we could not get ahold of at all. So there has been a lot of postponement and changing schedules all year.
CC: The media has described Curtis as a bit of a ‘character’. What have you learned about his personality from your interactions with him so far?
DLP: It’s really kind of sad. He has a lot more talent and he’s somehow gotten branded as an ‘Elvis Impersonator’ in the media. To me it sounds like a tragic story of someone who could have made it big but it never happened.
MLA: He’s a really talented, original singer/songwriter, but for whatever reason the celebrity impersonation stuff paid the bills so he kept doing it and of course that’s what the media has locked onto.
CC: Indiegogo campaigns are typically a grass-roots effort. Who are you aiming to attract with your fundraising campaign?
MLA: Anybody who is interested in documentaries but also I hope North Mississippians want this story told because it is someone from here telling the story… I hope people in the South appreciate that we are telling a story about the South that is really complicated. But also I think anyone who has ever questioned the overreach that the government sometimes has because some of the stuff that happened to Kevin is very questionable and the more we dug into it the more we’ve heard about North Mississippi District causing more problems for other people as well. It’s sort of scary that at any point your rights can be trampled on.
CC: What kind of reactions are you getting from potential donors/investors about this story considering how bizarrely it unfolded?
DLP: Most people kind of get excited and say, ‘Oh wow, that’s a good subject!’ It’s something that everybody’s heard of and everybody knows about… The reaction is that we really got onto something good.
MLA: I’ve been really surprised since this Indiegogo campaign started, hearing from random people over the country who say, ‘Oh yeah I heard about that but I never knew what happened. Did that guy really do it?’ There are some people who don’t know that he’s innocent.
CC: Have you uncovered any bombshells so far about the story or the case itself?
MLA: What the media covered had some details but there’s a lot of stuff about the interrogation practices and how long he was held and some of the tricks that are used that I wasn’t aware of. That it’s not really about ‘justice for all’. It’s about who can play the dirtiest tricks to get the person in jail. That really upset me… I was really shocked at how unfair the criminal justice system is.
CC: What will be your next step when you complete the documentary?
MLA: We have some people interested in possibly distributing it and we are hoping that will work out. Right now, once we actually get the film funded, we have started editing but we are going to hire more professional editors to finish it and we have a composer already on board. Then we will see who wants to distribute it and if not, it will go on the film festival circuit.
CC: How do you think the world will perceive Curtis after the film is released?
DLP: I would say a large part of that is up to Curtis.
MLA: Yeah, I think people are going to see him lots of different ways. I think for some people it will be, ‘Yeah, that’s about right’ but I think some people hopefully will be moved and more aware of who he is as a whole, not just the media’s stereotype of him. There is some mental illness between him and Everett Dutschke. Whether they diagnose anything or not, when you get to that level where you’re willing to frame somebody for poisoning the President, there’s some issues there. So I think delving into that part, some people are going to be as mind-boggled as we are.
Besides the Indiegogo donation campaign, Addington and Perea are still looking for private investors who might want to share in the financial aspect of the making of the film. You can view their campaign at www.indiegogo.com/projects/i-didn-t-do-it-a-documentary. They can also be found on Facebook at www.facebook.com/IDidntDoItMovie.
Here’s the trailer for the documentary…