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Trial begins over topless Cameron Diaz pics

Photographer charged with attempted theft, forging her signature
/ Source: Reuters

A photographer who took steamy photographs of actress Cameron Diaz before she was famous went on trial Wednesday for what prosecutors said was an attempt to blackmail her for more than $3 million.

John Rutter, 42, is charged in Los Angeles Superior Court with forging the “Charlie’s Angels” actress’s signature on a May 1992 model release form and of attempted grand theft.

An earlier charge of extortion was dropped against Rutter, who is alleged to have tried to sell Diaz the photos in 2003 before shopping them to others.

Diaz is expected to testify at the trial that she never signed the release form and that Rutter had confronted her with the photos in June 2003, indicating he had buyers willing to pay $5 million for them.

Diaz’s publicist has declined to describe the photos but pictures of a bare-breasted 19-year-old Diaz have appeared on Internet sites. The pictures were taken two years before her breakthrough role in the “The Mask.”

“(The) defendant presented her with a forged document and, in essence, attempted to blackmail her out of her money,” Deputy District Attorney David Walgren told the jury.

Rutter, who has denied forging the model release, could face up to six years in prison if convicted.

His lawyer Mark Werksman said Rutter was “guilty of being a nice guy” for giving Diaz the first opportunity to buy the photos which had been taken in a 1992 session in which “she was willing to literally expose herself in order to gain that exposure.”

Werksman said the case against Rutter was about “a rich and powerful movie star ... seeking to crush and destroy John Rutter” and “forever bury” embarrassing photographs.

Diaz has also filed a civil suit seeking damages against Rutter that is scheduled for trial in October.