MARQUETTE, Mich. (AP) - Attorneys for a couple accused of plotting to extort $680,000from John Stamos are trying to get them off the hook by attackingthe actor's character and the FBI's credibility.
Defense lawyers in the trial of Allison Coss and Scott Sippolahave portrayed Stamos as a promiscuous drug user -- allegations hedenied while testifying Tuesday. They've also asked federal agentswhether they destroyed evidence after setting up a sting operationto snare the defendants, drawing emphatic denials.
Prosecutors, meanwhile, are methodically building their casewith reams of documentation and testimony suggesting Coss andSippola hoped to strike it rich by tricking Stamos into believingthey were prepared to sell compromising photos of him to celebritytabloids.
The government was scheduled to call more witnesses Wednesday inU.S. District Court. Judge R. Allan Edgar said he expected the juryto get the case Thursday.
Stamos, the 46-year-old "Full House" and "ER" star who'spreparing to join the Fox hit show "Glee," spent several hours onthe stand Tuesday. He acknowledged having a "flirty" e-mailrelationship with Coss after socializing with her in Orlando, Fla.,in 2004, but denied knowing she was 17 at the time.
Stamos also denied defense lawyer Sarah Henderson's accusationthat he stripped and sat in a hot tub in his hotel room with Coss,who was wearing only underclothes. And he insisted knowing allalong that no photos of him using illegal drugs existed, despitecorresponding online with someone claiming to have suchpictures.
Coss, now 24, and 31-year-old Sippola are charged withconspiracy and two counts of extortion. If convicted, the Marquettecouple could get up to five years in prison on the conspiracycharge and two years on each extortion count.
Questioned by prosecutors, Stamos said he joined three malefriends on a trip to Orlando six years ago, shortly afterseparating from his wife, actress and supermodel Rebecca Romijn. Hesaid he met Coss at a dance club where patrons must be at least 18and she told him she was a college student on spring break.
She actually was a high school student who had used a borrowedID to get into the club, Henderson told jurors during openingarguments Monday.
The next day, they went to Disney World and later to his hotelroom, where up to 10 people had gathered, Stamos said.
"We were just hanging out, socializing," he said.
Henderson said during her opening remarks that the night Stamosand Coss met, they wound up in his hotel suite with other people,including two strippers with cocaine. Henderson said Stamos wasphotographed bending over a table where the drugs had been laid outand that he offered to perform oral sex on Coss when they were onhis bed kissing, but she declined.
Stamos was not asked about the alleged sex offer during histestimony and did not address it. Edgar last week ruled thatquestions about a sexual relationship between Coss and Stamos wouldnot be allowed.
Prosecutors say the extortion attempt occurred last fall. Theyhad Stamos read from e-mail exchanges, beginning with two messagesfrom "J Taylor" who claimed he had gotten her pregnant.
"If this gets out, I am screwed. But most of all you are screwed10 times more than me," it said. Henderson acknowledged Monday thatCoss had sent the message.
Afterward, Stamos testified, Coss began sending him e-mailssaying a man was harassing her about having incriminating photos ofher and Stamos.
For the most part, Coss appears more fearful than Stamos in thee-mails. "I'm not worried about pics," he says. "The worst we weredoing was drinking and goofing off."
In November, Stamos begins communicating with "Brian L," whoprosecutors say was Sippola. The man says he has photos containingimages of drug-taking, alcohol use and strippers. Brian L also sayshe's been offered $780,000 in a tabloid bidding war and offers thepictures to Stamos for $680,000, according to the e-mails Stamosread in court.
Stamos contacted the FBI, which orchestrated a fake money dropthat led to Coss and Sippola being arrested Dec. 2. Afterward, 14agents searched the couple's home. Several testified they foundpictures of Coss with Stamos but said none were compromising.
Questioned by Henderson, agent Leslie Hahn and agent SteveFlattery both denied destroying any such photos or otherevidence.
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