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Last Updated: Thursday, 14 July, 2005, 07:54 GMT 08:54 UK
Diaz topless photo trial begins
By Peter Bowes
BBC News in Los Angeles

Hollywood actress Cameron Diaz is expected to appear at the Los Angeles trial of a photographer accused of attempting to blackmail her.

John Rutter, 42, is charged with forging her signature on a model release form and attempted grand theft.

The provocative photos were taken in 1992 before Diaz was famous.

Mark Werksman, representing Mr Rutter, said his client was "guilty of being a nice guy" for giving Diaz the first opportunity to buy the photos.

Cameron Diaz
Cameron Diaz is among Hollywood's highest paid actresses

The then 19-year-old model made her screen breakthrough in The Mask two years later.

Mr Rutter is accused of trying to sell the pictures back to the actress in 2003 shortly before shopping them around elsewhere for a reputed $5m (2.8m).

By then, Diaz was one of the world's leading actresses and was about to appear in Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle.

She has maintained that she never signed a release form.

'Nice guy'

In opening statements, prosecutor David Walgren told the jury that Mr Rutter had presented Diaz with "a forged document and, in essence, attempted to blackmail her out of her money."

Mr Werksman maintained that the actress had been "willing to literally expose herself" in order to gain exposure.

He added that the case was about "a rich and powerful movie star ... seeking to crush and destroy John Rutter" and "forever bury" embarrassing photographs.

Charlie's Angels at the premiere of Full Throttle
Diaz starred in Charlie's Angels with Lucy Liu and Drew Barrymore

The case, like so many celebrity trials, appears to come down to the word of a big name star against that of an ordinary mortal.

"I think people are intrigued by celebrities but I don't think that necessarily means that they believe them more than someone who is not a celebrity," said Steve Cron, an LA defence lawyer who is familiar with celebrity cases.

During the jury selection process Superior Court Judge Michael E Pastor attempted to weed out potential members of the panel that may be swayed by the alleged victim's notoriety.

"Who has not heard of the actress Cameron Diaz," he asked.

Only two people raised their hands.

"I think it's hard for most people to relate to the lifestyles of the rich and famous - especially if you're living in an area that's not as affluent," said Mr Cron.

Lock and key

"In that respect it could work against her if her credibility is an issue."

By definition, the issue at stake is unique to the celebrity world. Salacious photographs come with a price tag only when their subject is famous.

"It doesn't have to be an actress," said Mr Cron.

"It could be a politician. If it was Hillary Clinton or Arnold Schwarzenegger in a Speedo someone might be willing to pay money for those photographs, but if it's you or me, unfortunately no-one cares."

Handwriting experts are likely to offer the jurors a professional assessment of whether Diaz's signature was forged.

For now, the photographs at the heart of the case are being kept under lock and key by the authorities. The judge ordered them to be sealed two years ago - until the dispute is settled.

Diaz's side has argued that the release of the pictures could tarnish her reputation.

The trial is expected to last two weeks.





SEE ALSO:
Jury selected in Diaz photo trial
13 Jul 05 |  Entertainment
Judge bans sale of Diaz pictures
26 Nov 03 |  Entertainment
Man 'tried to sell Diaz photos'
20 Nov 03 |  Entertainment
Diaz photographer must stay in jail
12 Sep 03 |  Entertainment
Snapper denies Diaz extortion
29 Aug 03 |  Entertainment
Man charged over Diaz 'extortion bid'
14 Aug 03 |  Entertainment


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