published Tuesday, August 6th, 2013

Plea deal reached in Paula Deen extortion case

By RUSS BYNUM

Associated Press

SAVANNAH, Ga. — A New York man charged with trying to extort money from embattled celebrity cook Paula Deen has agreed to a plea deal with prosecutors.

Records filed in U.S. District Court in Savannah say 62-year-old Thomas George Paculis signed a plea agreement with federal prosecutors last week, but details were not released. He is scheduled to appear before a judge Friday for a change-of-plea hearing.

Paculis of Newfield, N.Y., pleaded not guilty last month. Authorities say he contacted Deen's attorney threatening to reveal damaging statements made by the former Food Network star unless she paid him $200,000. That happened after Deen's admission that she had used the N-word in the past became public.

Paculis' lawyer, Richard Darden, and a spokesman for U.S. Attorney Edward Tarver both declined to comment Monday.

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