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    Stamos Blackmail Trial Kicks Off; Will Talk of Sex and Drugs Tarnish Image?

    Scott Sippola, Allison Coss, John Stamos US Attorney's Office; AP Photo / Neilson Barnard

    John Stamos is in Michigan today for a big production he'd just as soon not take part in.

    A jury was seated today in the trial of two locals who stand accused of trying to extort $700,000 from the ex-ER hunk by threatening to sell supposedly compromising pictures of him.

    Attorneys for the defendants, one of whom claims she had a fling with Stamos when she was 17, have suggested in court papers that they plan to make Stamos' sex life an issue to exonerate their clients.

    Scott Sippola, 30, and Allison Coss, 23, were busted in December after after threatening to make public several embarrassing photos of the former Full House star at a 2004 party, supposedly showing him with cocaine and strippers. Stamos' camp has claimed there were no such images, only harmless pics of "John posing with fans."

    The duo has pleaded not guilty to charges of felony extortion and misusing interstate commerce.

    During jury selection, both sides dismissed eight panelists after quizzing them about whether celebrities have a right to privacy, whether they understood the difference between "immoral" and "illegal" and what the word "extortion" meant.

    While the judge ruled last week that testimony about Stamos' sex life was verboten, opening statements are fair game.

    The defendants' attorney, Sarah Henderson, told the court in her opening remarks that Coss had an intimate encounter with Stamos when they met in 2004, shortly after he and Rebecca Romijn separated.

    Henderson said that Stamos invited Coss and another girl up to his hotel room after spotting them at a nightclub. They accepted, and after they got there, two strippers arrived with cocaine. Coss and her friend took pictures of Stamost bending over a table with coke on it, Henderson said.

    Also that night, Henderson continued, her client and Stamos kissed on a bed and took a dip in the hot tub together, Coss wearing her underwear. Stamos offered to perform oral sex on Coss, the lawyer said, but she declined.

    At first Stamos was mad, Henderson told the court, but then cooled off and invited Coss to spend the night, which she did. The two of them maintained a flirtatious correspondence for awhile, the lawyer said.

    As for the fact that Coss and Sippola were arrested at a Michigan airport where a rep for Stamos, working with authorities, had said he would leave a bag of cash in exchange for them keeping quiet about the supposedly damning photos, Henderson said that her clients were attempting a legitimate business transaction.

    "Human beings make mistakes," she said. "Not all mistakes are illegal."

    This one was, though, countered prosecutor Maarten Vermaat.

    "This is really just a get-rich-quick scheme that is based on lies and betrayal," he told the jury.

    Stamos' attorney, William Sobel, issued the following statement after court: "The allegations made today in the courtroom by the defendants' attorneys during opening statements will not be proven because they are simply untrue."

    The trial is scheduled to last until the end of the week. Stamos, who was in court today, is expected to testify at some point.

    (Originally published July 12, 2010, at 2:30 p.m. PT)

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