MARQUETTE, Mich. (AP) - An attorney for actor John Stamos denies the "Full House" and"ER" star had a romantic fling with a 17-year-old girl who sixyears later is accused of scheming to bilk him of hundreds ofthousands of dollars by threatening to sell compromising photos tothe tabloids.
A defense lawyer made the allegation Monday during openingarguments in U.S. District Court as Allison Coss and Scott Sippolawent on trial, charged with conspiracy to commit extortion. Coss,24, and Sippola, 31, both of Marquette, are accused of conspiringto extort $680,000 from Stamos by telling him they had photos ofhim with cocaine and strippers -- pictures prosecutors contenddon't exist and that two FBI agents testified they did not findwhile searching the defendants' house after their arrest.
Stamos, 46, is expected to testify during the trial, whichresumes Tuesday. But it's unclear if he will address the defense'sclaim that he had a romantic encounter with Coss when she was ahigh school student on a spring break trip to Florida in 2004.
The presiding judge last week ruled that testimony about whetherStamos had an intimate relationship with Coss would not be allowed.Opening statements are not testimony and cannot be considered byjurors as evidence but allow attorneys to outline the case theywill present.
Stamos declined to comment to The Associated Press afterMonday's opening statements. But his attorney, William Sobel,issued a statement through publicist Matt Polk denying thedefense's claims.
"The allegations made today in the courtroom by the defendants'attorneys during opening statements will not be proven because theyare simply untrue," the statement said.
Defense attorney Sarah Henderson and Assistant U.S. AttorneyMaarten Vermaat agreed in their opening statements that Coss andStamos met in Orlando, Fla., in 2004 -- shortly after Stamos hadseparated from his wife, actress and supermodel Rebecca Romijn. Thecouple divorced the next year.
Henderson said Stamos, now 46, noticed Coss and another girl ata club, asked friends to bring them over and later invited thestar-struck teens to his hotel room. Stamos ordered a drink forCoss even after she told him she was 17, Henderson said.
Two women who worked as strippers eventually showed up in theroom with a bag of cocaine, she said, and Coss and her friend tooka picture of Stamos bending over a table where the drugs had beenlaid out.
Henderson said Stamos and Coss later kissed on a bed and gotinto a hot tub together after Stamos undressed and Coss stripped toher underwear. She said Stamos offered to perform oral sex on Coss,but she declined. Florida law makes it a second-degree felony forsomeone 24 or older to have oral sex with anyone 16 or 17 yearsold.
Stamos eventually became frustrated, broke a bedpost with hishand and left the room before apologizing and inviting Coss tospend the night, which she did, Henderson said.
For the next few years, they maintained a "flirty kind ofrelationship" by e-mail, Henderson said.
Vermaat said the two exchanged e-mails "with some regularity"but did not discuss details of the alleged 2004 encounter.
Stamos received two e-mails last fall from a "Jessica T" whoclaimed she was pregnant and Stamos was the father, Vermaat said.Later came a series of e-mails from a "Brian L" describingallegedly compromising photos and saying they would be sold totabloids if Stamos did not buy them for $680,000.
Prosecutors contend Coss and Sippola sent the e-mails.
Henderson acknowledged Coss was "Jessica T" but described thee-mails as a ruse to test Stamos' reaction in hopes of determiningwhether he was preying on young girls.
Stamos contacted the FBI, Vermaat said. Two agents testifiedabout a sting operation that ended with Coss and Sippola's arrestat K.I. Sawyer International Airport near Marquette, where an agentposing as a Stamos representative had promised to leave a bag ofcash.
"This is really just a get-rich-quick scheme that is based onlies and betrayal," Vermaat told the jury of eight men and fourwomen.
Defense attorneys said their clients had a right to try to sellphotos to Stamos and considered it a legitimate businesstransaction, not a crime.
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