Man In Tom Cruise Extortion Plot Kills Himself

Other News Materials 29 September 2007 22:44 (UTC +04:00)

A publicist under house arrest after agreeing last month to plead guilty in a plot to extort more than $1 million from Tom Cruise for the actor's stolen wedding photos has been found dead in his Phoenix home, police said.

Police said that it appeared David Hans Schmidt, 47, committed suicide

Schmidt was free on $100,000 bond but faced up to two years in federal prison and a $250,000 fine under a plea agreement filed Aug. 24 in a Los Angeles court.

His attorney, Nancy Kardon, said she had spoken to Schmidt earlier this week and was preparing for an Oct. 11 hearing in federal court where he would enter his formal guilty plea to attempted extortion. She said she had planned to ask for probation.

"I was greatly saddened by his loss and I found him to be a very kind man," Kardon said Saturday.

Authorities went to Schmidt's townhouse around 3 p.m. Friday when they noticed a tracker placed on him had not moved and he had not checked in, said Phoenix police Lt. Anthony Lopez.

Schmidt was arrested in July after federal authorities said a co-defendant obtained photos of Cruise's wedding in Italy last year to Katie Holmes from the event's official photographer, court documents show.

Starting in May, Schmidt had repeated contact with Cruise representatives and threatened to release the photos if he didn't receive between $1.2 and $1.3 million, authorities said.

Schmidt also tried to auction off Paris Hilton's diaries, along with photos of her in various stages of undress and other personal items that had been locked away in a Los Angeles-area storage locker until a few months ago.

He also claimed to have brokered deals to sell a sex video of Dustin Diamond, who played Screech on "Saved by the Bell," and a video of skater Tonya Harding's wedding night, according to published reports.

He also claimed to have obtained topless shots of rescued U.S. Army POW Pfc. Jessica Lynch.

Meanwhile, a plea agreement for Schmidt's co-defendant was filed under seal Aug. 24, according to a federal court docket in Los Angeles.

Marc Lewis Gittleman, who authorities said helped recover photos from a computer hard drive, was charged with conspiracy to commit extortion.

Gittleman, 33, faces up to five years in prison. His attorney Michael Nasatir declined to comment because the plea agreement is under seal. ( Kpho )