The Clinton Herald, Clinton, Iowa

AP story section

August 12, 2013

NY man pleads guilty in Paula Deen extortion case

SAVANNAH, Ga. — A New York man pleaded guilty in federal court Friday to trying to extort $200,000 from Paula Deen by threatening to reveal damaging information about the embattled celebrity cook if she didn't pay him to stay quiet.

"I had, I guess, some bad judgment," 62-year-old Thomas George Paculis told a U.S. District Court judge in Savannah. "I do take responsibility for what I have done."

Paculis, of Newfield, acknowledged sending emails to Deen's attorney offering to trade his silence for cash in June. It came a few days after documents became public that revealed the former Food Network star had said under oath that she used racial slurs in the past.

As Deen's culinary empire began to crumble, Paculis claimed he could reveal things that would bring her "financial hardship and even ruin," according to one email that invited Deen's lawyer to "make me an offer I can't refuse."

Neither Paculis nor federal authorities have revealed what sort of dirt the defendant claimed he could dish up regarding Deen or if he truly had any at all. He owned a restaurant in Savannah in the 1990s, but Deen told the FBI she didn't recognize his name or his face.

Paculis, who declined to comment to reporters as he left the courthouse, also never said why he tried to shake down Deen. It's possible he just needed money. An attorney was appointed to defend Paculis last month when he said he couldn't afford to hire one. And his probation officer told the judge Friday that Paculis had been unemployed for a year.

As he described his actions Friday to Judge William T. Moore Jr., Paculis at times seemed to have trouble explaining himself. He said that he had hoped to avoid prosecution by persuading Deen's attorney into paying him to sign a nondisclosure agreement.

Text Only
AP story section
  • State to reopen Juvenile Home DES MOINES -- A district court judge on Wednesday ordered the state to reopen the Iowa Juvenile Home, telling Gov. Terry Branstad he cannot unilaterally change a law approved by the state Legislature. Judge Scott Rosenberg said the home in Toledo was

    February 6, 2014

  • Panel OKs ban on remote abortion pill distribution DES MOINES -- A legislative panel approved a measure Wednesday that would ban the remote distribution of abortion pills, a proposal the bill's sponsor said is intended to delay the procedure and give women more time to change their minds. The subcomm

    February 6, 2014

  • Sioux City gambling group halts local grants SIOUX CITY -- The nonprofit that holds the gambling license for the Argosy Sioux City riverboat casino has voted to temporarily stop sending grants to local charities and government agencies. A legal dispute with the operator of the casino, Penn Nati

    January 15, 2014

  • Davenport pays, apologizes to hearing impaired man DAVENPORT (AP) -- The city of Davenport has issued an unusual apology to a former alderman after a police employee was caught on tape saying that he intentionally knocked softly on the hearing-impaired man's door when responding to a service call. Th

    January 15, 2014

  • Budget Branstad presents budget for next fiscal year DES MOINES -- Gov. Terry Branstad offered a budget proposal Tuesday that includes a tax break for veterans, a tuition freeze for college students and incentives to encourage Internet expansion in rural Iowa, a more modest list of priorities one year

    January 15, 2014 1 Photo

  • Gov. restores more felons' voting rights IOWA CITY (AP) -- Gov. Terry Branstad restored voting rights to more felons in 2013 than the prior two years combined, but thousands of others remain disenfranchised under a 2011 policy change. Data released by the governor's office to The Associated

    January 15, 2014

  • Man fatally shot at Fla. theater over texting WESLEY CHAPEL, Fla. (AP) -- A 71-year-old retired police officer accused of shooting a man dead in a Florida movie theater told authorities that "he was in fear of being attacked" during Monday's confrontation. Curtis Reeves is charged with second-de

    January 15, 2014

  • Iowa Senator: Congress must confirm election board DES MOINES -- An Iowa senator asked a U.S. Senate committee Wednesday to confirm appointees to a federal election commission so a decision can be made about whether Iowa Secretary of State Matt Schultz is properly using money for voter-fraud investig

    January 9, 2014

  • School Discipline Gov't: End overly zealous discipline in schools WASHINGTON, D.C. -- The Obama administration is urging schools to abandon overly zealous discipline policies that civil rights advocates have long said lead to a school-to-prison pipeline that discriminates against minority students. The wide-ranging

    January 9, 2014 1 Photo

  • Governor, lawmakers set modest goals for 2014 DES MOINES -- After reaching bipartisan agreements on several major policy initiatives last year, Gov. Terry Branstad said Wednesday that he is setting more modest expectations for the 2014 legislative session. Speaking at The Associated Press' annua

    January 9, 2014

AP Video
Facebook
National News