The photographer who took topless photos of a 19-year-old aspiring model named Cameron Diaz, then attempted to sell them back to her for $3.5m after she became a movie star, is facing up to six years in prison.
After only three and a half hours of deliberation, the jury found 42-year-old John Rutter guilty of attempted grand theft, forgery, and lying in relation to his 2003 effort to sell the images to the “Charlie’s Angels” actress.
When Diaz was a 19-year-old aspiring model, Rutter, who was then known for taking artistic photographs for European magazines, posed her for photographs in 1992 while she was wearing leather boots, a bustier, a leather vest, and fishnet stockings. Diaz was also holding a chain around the neck of a male model.
According to Rutter’s testimony, the actress signed a release form granting him ownership of the images, but he said he didn’t notice the signature was fake until he attempted to sell them back to her for $3.5 million in 2003, just before the premiere of “Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle.” According to The Associated Press, the photographer said that he was attempting to provide Diaz “first refusal” on the purchase of the images before making them available to other customers.
In her testimony, Diaz said that Rutter warned her that the purchasers intended to “use this against” her by presenting her as a “bad angel” in a large magazine feature as well as a bus and billboard advertising campaign.
After initially considering jointly selling the photos to a reputable outlet, Diaz began to suspect blackmail and contacted authorities when Rutter wouldn’t tell her who his buyers were.
Diaz, 32, wasn’t present when the verdict was read but praised the outcome in a statement.
“Although I wish that this unfortunate situation hadn’t occurred in the first place, I am very gratified that justice has been served,” the actress said.
The actress testified in the case two weeks ago, and said that at the time the shots were taken, she was sick of doing catalog photos and thought Rutter could help her do some more interesting work. “I kind of bought in to thinking I would like to do images that are great images — rather than just a model who sells clothes,” Diaz said, according to the Los Angeles Times “I didn’t think of them as pornographic. I didn’t think of them as perverted.” Besides, Diaz said, “My boobs looked good. … At least I had that going for me.”
Judge Michael Pastor called Rutter a “definite flight risk” and sent him immediately to jail, where he will remain until his sentencing Sept. 15.
Rutter’s mother wept hysterically outside the courtroom after sheriff’s deputies handcuffed him and took him away.
His lawyer, Mark Werksman, said the photographer was devastated. “This is about the blackest day in John Rutter’s life,” said Werksman, who accused Diaz of using her fame and fortune to destroy his client. “This was an epic battle between a rich and famous celebrity and a hardworking photographer… She brought powerful, enormous interests to bear against him, and her side prevailed in this litigation.”
The judge ordered attorneys to discuss making restitution, but Werksman said his client is in no position to pay. “It’s laughable to expect John Rutter to pay Cameron Diaz,” he said. “I can only shudder to think what kind of bills she will present.”
The prosecutor denied the case was pursued more vigorously because of Diaz’s fame. “We don’t seek to tolerate serious crimes like forgery, perjury … be it against a celebrity or anyone else,” prosecutor David Walgren said.
The topless photos have never been published, and a judge has prohibited Rutter from releasing either them or a video of the shoot.
Prosecutors argued that Rutter used a signature he thought was Diaz’s from a publicity photo he downloaded off the Internet and forged onto the release using Photoshop.
Diaz, whose screen credits include Shrek and There’s Something About Mary, testified that she wasn’t ashamed of the shots and had offered at one point to go into partnership with Rutter in releasing some images. She said he turned her down.
Rutter’s sentencing is scheduled for September 15.