Los Angeles, July 26 (Reuters): A photographer who took topless pictures of actor Cameron Diaz before she was famous was convicted on Monday of charges stemming from what prosecutors said was a bid to blackmail the Charlie’s Angels star for $3 million.
John Rutter, who was accused of faking Diaz’s signature on a 1992 release form and telling the actor he would publish the steamy, bondage-themed photos if she did not buy them back, was convicted of attempted grand theft, forgery, and perjury.
The 42-year-old photographer, who had been free on $250,000 bond, was taken to jail soon after the verdict was read, leaving his mother sobbing in a courthouse hallway. The jury of seven women and five men deliberated for about four hours before finding him guilty on all three counts.
Rutter, who faces more than five years in prison when he is sentenced on September 15, testified at the trial that he believed the signature was genuine and that he was giving Diaz the opportunity to keep them out of circulation.
Outside court, defence attorney Mark Werksman portrayed the case as a dispute between Diaz and Rutter that the powerful movie star had won with her wealth and fame.
”This was an epic battle between a rich and famous celebrity and a hard-working photographer,” Werksman said.“She brought some very powerful and enormous interests to bear against him.”
He added:“John is devastated by this. This is the blackest day of his life and the bleakest.”
Though Los Angeles authorities have in recent months promised to crack down on crimes against celebrities, prosecutor David Walgren said Diaz was given no special treatment.
”We don't tolerate forgers and criminals who seek to take advantage of celebrities or anyone else,” he said.“Had the victim been anyone other than Cameron Diaz, he would have been prosecuted in the same courts, in the same manner and with the same diligence.”
Diaz during her testimony acknowledged posing bare-breasted more than a decade ago when she was an unknown, 19-year-old model, but said she never signed the release and felt betrayed when Rutter tried to sell them during a meeting in June 2003.
The California-born actress, who shot to fame after starring opposite Jim Carrey in the 1994 comedy“The Mask,” was not in court for the