Disgraced TV chef PAULA DEEN is facing yet another scandal after her troubled stepson was busted for a brutal beating – and sources say she’s desperately trying to hush up her family’s violent secret.
An ENQUIRER investigation has revealed that Anthony Groover – son of Paula’s tugboat captain hubby Michael Groover – was charged with a felony after he viciously attacked a man on a Savannah, Ga., street.
According to official documents, Anthony knocked his onetime close pal James Price unconscious and then pummeled the fallen man so mercilessly that he suffered a broken nose and eye socket!
Now, in an exclusive ENQUIRER interview, Price claims Anthony, 28, has gotten off without even a slap on the wrist – and he blames Savannah’s “good ol’ boy network” for shielding their biggest celebrity, Paula Deen!
“As it stands now, it looks like Anthony is going to get away without any punishment at all,” Price told The ENQUIRER.
“Paula Deen and her family are treated like royalty in the Savannah area, and it’s pretty obvious to me that this is just another case of Savannah’s good ol’ boy network protecting her.”
Price, an engineer in Savannah’s tugboat industry, claims he and Anthony, a tugboat deckhand, were heading home in the wee hours of Sept. 23, 2012, after boozing at a downtown Savannah bar called the Live Wire Music Hall when things went south. According to Price, the two men were walking down the street to catch a cab together when an SUV pulled up. Anthony – who was busted for DUI in 2006 – jumped into the passenger seat. But when Price tried to climb into the back seat, Anthony exploded.
“Anthony flew into a rage, jumped out of the SUV with another guy and started cussing me for no reason,” Price said. “I told him, ‘F*** you, man!’ and started to walk away.
“As my back was turned, Anthony shoved me into a brick building. My head hit the wall so hard that it knocked me out cold.”
Witnesses told police that “a white male from the SUV tackled Price into the wall, causing him to become unconscious, and punched him in the face multiple times.”
A bystander pulled Anthony off Price, and he fled in the SUV, cops said.
According to the official report, cops found Price “lying on the ground in blood with bruising on his face, lacerations on the front and back of his head, and a large amount of blood on his hands and head.”
Price says he was treated at a hospital and claims that after nearly $100,000 of reconstructive surgery, he still has problems seeing out of his right eye.
Meanwhile, Anthony didn’t surrender to authorities until nearly a month after a warrant was issued for his arrest. He was charged with felony aggravated battery and simple battery, and ordered not to have any contact with Price.
But Price claims Anthony ignored the order and harassed him with a threatening phone call and text messages.
Price complained to the district attorney’s office, and a motion was filed to revoke Anthony’s bond.
While Price said Chatham County Assistant District Attorney Anna Guardino assured him he’d be able to tell his side of the story in court, Price said that’s not what happened when a judge heard the motion in April.
“Anthony, his father, their attorneys and assistant D.A. Guardino were invited into the judge’s chambers, but I was not allowed to join them,” Price recalled.
“After their closed-door meeting, I was informed that no action would be taken. And within the hour Anthony called me again.
“He said, ‘The look on your face when that judge let me off was priceless. Now I’m going to hunt you down and beat your ass again!’”
Anthony’s harassing calls continued for weeks, Price said.
Despite that, on May 1, a grand jury refused to indict Anthony on the original charges. While Price said Guardino told him cops would pursue a lesser charge of assault, Price notes that no charges have been filed.
“I’m pretty confident that if the person responsible for such a violent beat-down was not closely related to Paula Deen, more drastic mea sures would’ve been taken,” Price fumed. And a well-placed source close to the Deen family agrees.
“Life in Savannah has always been easier if you’re related to Paula,” said the source. “People there are so star-struck by her and her family that the majority of them would do almost anything to protect them.”
Since Anthony’s alleged attack on Price occurred, Paula has been under fire for using vile racial and gay slurs.
“Paula was being bombarded with bad press, and she was furious with Anthony for putting her reputation and business empire at further risk,” explained the source.
“Paula has done everything she can to make sure Anthony’s case remains buried, but it’s also caused an avalanche of problems in her marriage because she’s been taking out her anger on Michael.”
As The ENQUIRER has reported, rumors that Paula, 66, and Michael, 57, are heading for divorce have long been rampant in Savannah. Tensions between them came to a head recently after she caught Michael cheating and he walked out on her.
“Anthony’s recent criminal case is just another problem in a series of many that are piling up in Paula and Michael’s marriage,” said the source. “It’s only a matter of time before it collapses!”