The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

State and Nation

August 9, 2013

Plea change scheduled in Paula Deen extortion case

— SAVANNAH, Ga. (AP) — A New York man charged with trying to extort money from embattled celebrity cook Paula Deen is scheduled to appear before a federal judge to change his plea.

Thomas George Paculis was to appear Friday afternoon in U.S. District Court in Savannah, where he pleaded not guilty during his last hearing in July.

Court records filed last week say 62-year-old Paculis of Newfield, N.Y., has signed a plea agreement with prosecutors. But details haven't been released.

Prosecutors and Paculis' defense attorney have declined to comment.

Authorities say Paculis contacted Deen's attorney threatening to reveal damaging statements by the former Food Network star unless she paid him $200,000. That happened after documents became public that showed Deen acknowledged using racial slurs in the past.

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