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Monday, 24 June, 2002, 10:32 GMT 11:32 UK
Crowe 'blackmail' trial thrown out
Russell Crowe
Crowe was not present at the trial
A judge in Australia has ordered extortion charges against two men accused of blackmailing actor Russell Crowe to be thrown out.

Malcolm Mercer and Philip Cropper, both 38, had been accused of blackmailing the star with a video of a brawl outside a nightclub in Coffs Harbour, near Sydney.

They were alleged to have attempted to extort AUS $200,000 (76,200) from the Oscar winner in exchange for destroying the security video.

But New South Wales District Judge John Williams directed a jury to dismiss the charges after telling them the prosecution had not made a strong enough case.

Argument

He said it had failed to prove beyond reasonable doubt that the men had made an unwarranted demand or had threatened Crowe.

Russell Crowe in Oscar-nominated A Beautiful Mind
Crowe missed out on an Oscar for A Beautiful Mind
The tape taken in 1999 reportedly shows the actor fighting with a man and arguing with a woman outside the club in the holiday resort town, close to Crowe's cattle ranch.

Mr Mercer and Mr Cropper were said to have told Crowe through a friend that if he did not pay up they would get the video published.

Although the judge accepted the pair wanted money he said there was no evidence to show they had made any demand or threat.

No threat

He said the only evidence presented was a conversation between Mr Cropper and Crowe's friend Craig Coleman, coach of South Sydney Rugby League team.

But the judge said he had heard the conversation but said it was inconclusive.

He said there was no specific threat to go to the media or any suggestion that if Mr Coleman did not pass on a message to the actor or that if Crowe ignored the message that the tape would be sold.

Crowe himself had not yet given evidence at the trial and was away filming throughout most of it.

Mr Mercer and Mr Cropper are now considering legal action for malicious prosecution.

Crowe won a best actor Oscar for Gladiator but missed out on the 2002 title for his role in A Beautiful Mind as Denzel Washington picked up the award.

See also:

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