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   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 have not 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.

 
Published in National News

CLEVELAND (AP) - A Cleveland man accused of holding three women captive in his home for about a decade has pleaded guilty in a deal to avoid the death penalty.

Ariel Castro entered the plea Friday. In exchange, prosecutors are recommending the 53-year-old Castro be sentenced to life without parole plus 1,000 years.

Castro says a pornography addiction and "sexual problem" have taken a toll on his mind. He also says he was sexually abused as a child.

He had been charged in a 977-count indictment. He is pleading guilty to 937 counts.

He had been scheduled for trial Aug. 5 on allegations that include repeatedly restraining the women and punching and starving one woman until she had a miscarriage.

The women disappeared separately between 2002 and 2004. They escaped from Castro's house May 6.

Published in National News
WASHINGTON (AP) - An Army private charged in the biggest leak of classified material in U.S. history is set to tell a military judge today how he did it and why.

Pfc. Bradley Manning will answer questions from the judge who is considering whether to accept his offer to plead guilty to some charges.

Manning's only public explanation for giving classified material to WikiLeaks can be found in logs of an online chat with a confidant-turned-government informant. In those chats, Manning wrote that he engineered the leak because "information should be free" and he wanted "people to see the truth."

Even if a judge accepts his guilty plea, prosecutors can still pursue more serious charges against Manning. One charge is aiding the enemy, which carries a potential life sentence.
Published in National News

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