'Sultan of Sleaze' apparent suicide

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PHOENIX - A Phoenix man who was expected to plead guilty for trying to extort more than $1 million from actor Tom Cruise for stolen wedding photos, was found dead in his home from an apparent suicide, police said on Saturday.

David Hans Schmidt, dubbed the "Sultan of Sleaze" for peddling celebrity porn, was discovered by officers responding to a call at his central Phoenix home on Friday afternoon, investigators said. He was 47.

Schmidt was arrested in July for attempting to sell Cruise stolen photos of his 2006 Italian wedding to actress Katie Holmes. He was expected to enter a formal guilty plea during an October 11 hearing in a Los Angeles-area federal court and faced up to two years in prison.

Investigators discovered Schmidt after a monitoring device, which had been placed on him following his arrest, had not registered movement for "some time," said Sgt. Andy Hill, a Phoenix police spokesman.

Nancy Kardon, Schmidt's attorney, told Reuters that she spoke with her client two days ago to discuss strategy and the prospects of keeping him out of prison.

"He was optimistic that we would do what was necessary to get him probation," Kardon said. "I think he really felt like we had a shot."

Schmidt is best known for arranging deals to sell celebrity sex tapes and nude photos. His reported victims include celebrity socialite Paris Hilton, Olympic skater Tonya Harding and Gennifer Flowers, who claimed to have had an affair with former U.S. President Bill Clinton.

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