- The Washington Times - Monday, October 1, 2007

Blackmailer dies

A man who tried to extort money from Tom Cruise with stolen photos of the star’s Italian wedding to actress Katie Holmes has been found dead, authorities said Saturday.

David Hans Schmidt, 47, “was found dead in his home Friday” in Phoenix, said Lt. Anthony Lopez, spokesman for the Phoenix Police Department.

The Arizona Republic reported on its Web site that Mr. Schmidt had committed suicide, quoting his brother who said the publicist had suffered from depression.

In July, Mr. Schmidt was arrested by the FBI after he tried to sell Mr. Cruise pictures from the couple’s 2006 wedding for at least $1 million.

Mr. Schmidt, who admitted to the extortion charge in a plea deal, has been under house arrest since last month. Police went to his house after noticing the tracking device on his ankle had not moved.

According to “The Smoking Gun,” the Web site that broke the story, Mr. Schmidt was known as the “Sultan of Sleaze” for his Arizona-based business dealing in celebrity sex tapes. His clients reportedly included Gennifer Flowers, whom he represented when she came forward with allegations of an affair with former President Bill Clinton.

Bidding for Potter

A British charity has sold a complete set of Harry Potter books autographed by their author J.K. Rowling on E-Bay for $37,100 after 63 bids at a starting offer of $200, the charity said yesterday.

Mrs. Rowling’s mother-in-law, Barbara Murray, works for the Scottish charity that supplies books to schools worldwide. The identity of the purchaser of the series was not disclosed.

Mrs. Rowling agreed to donate the books, which were stored in a local police station, as part of the charity’s 25th anniversary celebrations.

The first in the boy wizard series, “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone,” was published in 1997 and the final and seventh novel, “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows,” hit English-language bookshops worldwide on July 21.

Advance returned

Author Douglas Brinkley says he’s giving back the advance he received from Penguin Group USA Inc., for failing to promptly deliver a biography on Beat Generation writer Jack Kerouac.

Penguin had sued Mr. Brinkley, a history teacher at Houston’s Rice University, because he failed to finish the book in time to publish it this month on the 50th anniversary of Mr. Kerouac’s classic novel, “On the Road.”

Mr. Brinkley said he and the Kerouac estate, which gave him access to the writer’s papers, had divided the $200,000 advance evenly. He said the estate’s executor, John Sampas, has agreed to return its half as well.

Penguin said it contracted with Mr. Brinkley in 1998 for the biography but he failed to deliver it by the final deadline of June 30, 2006.

Mr. Brinkley, a New Orleans resident, said disruptions by Hurricane Katrina and his wish to do right by the Kerouac material were the main reasons he failed to finish the biography. He is looking for another publisher.

Compiled by Kevin Chaffee from wire reports.

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