Pittsburgh man gets probation in Hines Ward threat

PITTSBURGH (AP) — A man who pleaded guilty to trying to extort $15,000 from former Pittsburgh Steelers receiver Hines Ward will spend two years on probation.

Joshua Van Auker pleaded guilty Tuesday in front of an Allegheny County judge.

Authorities became involved after Van Auker sent a text message to Ward’s assistant and threatened to release unspecified damaging information about a woman Van Auker dated who was allegedly previously involved with Ward.

Court records show the 26-year-old Van Auker pleaded guilty to a lesser version of the original charge of attempted theft by threatening to expose a secret.

Van Auker could not immediately be reached for comment Friday. The attorney who represented Van Auker after his arrest last year says he had no part in the plea bargain.

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