But lawyers for the Emmy-award winning celebrity chef insisted to a Savannah, Ga., court that the reason the XXX missive vanished from the computer of her brother, Earl "Bubba" Hiers, was not "intentional, reckless or negligently destroyed." It was simply "innocuous," they charged.
RadarOnline.com can reveal Deen, 66, provided more than 50,000 documents to Lisa Jackson -- she alleges she was the victim of violent behavior and sexual harassment for the five years she worked for the celebrity chef -- as part of the discovery phase of the lawsuit.
Deen's lawyers finally agreed to handover the emails after initially objecting based on what would turn out to be an exaggerated production cost.
But when the cache was produced, the sex-laced "smoking gun" email that Jackson contended Bubba viewed on the work computer that the pair shared was not one of them.
Deen's lawyer told the court his own search for the offending email "proved fruitless."
The Food Network star and her co-defendants later provided the 13 pornographic images in question to Jackson and her lawyers and Bubba confessed in a deposition the images were "pornographic... he viewed them... and they were in the workplace."
Concluding Deen, Bubba and the co-defendants "destroyed the emails, deleting them from the computers in question after notice of this litigation, or, possibly, while litigation was pending, "Jackson filed a motion asking the court to compel the emails to be produced or grant spoliation relief. (Spoliation sanctions extend to negligent reckless and intentional evidence destruction.)
"The fact is that these emails were destroyed after she gave notice of her intent to pursue a claim against Defendants in part based on these emails and after she filed her EEOC Equal Employment Opportunity Commission Charge," according to court documents filed on May 8 and obtained exclusively by Radar.
"She points out that "Defendants' counsel have refused to state whether or when a 'litigation hold' was communicated to Defendants."
Jackson asked the court to find that the "emails destruction was in bad faith, particularly in light of Mr. Hiers' unrebutted testimony in a deposition that the emails existed within the last year, i.e., 2012."
But while noting Deen and her co-defendants' admission that the email in question had indeed been deleted, U.S. Magistrate Judge G.R Smith denied the bid to the penalize the reality star.
The judge concluded Jackson now has 100 percent of the information she would otherwise glean from the email itself -- the offending 13 images -- and that she has lost nothing beyond the "emotional impact of being able to wave the paper version of the transmitting email at the jury."
"Hiers admits that he received porn-emails on the computer shared with the plaintiff, so she is free to super-illuminate that fact at trial," the judge ruled.
"Still, since pornography in its different strains (soft core, hard core, etc.) is often in the eye of the beholder, the evidentiary impact of being able to show the jury exactly what Jackson was forced to ensure is worth something.
"Jackson is therefore free to testify about how graphic and pervasive the emails were and that the defendants do not deny that they failed to preserve them after she quit and EEOC-charged the with maintaining a hostile sexual environment."
According to Jackson's complaint, Bubba frequented porn sites on the internet and left viewable porn on his computer screen in a shared work area for her and others to see.
He also frequently demanded that she watch it with him and the email address that the two shared fetched porn emails, it's alleged.