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Russell Crowe 'blackmailers' acquitted

Crowe: Not present in court
Crowe: Not present in court  

Staff and wires

SYDNEY, Australia -- An Australian judge hearing the case against two men accused of trying to blackmail Oscar-winning Hollywood actor Russell Crowe has ordered the jury to acquit the two men.

Australian's Malcolm Mercer and Philip Cropper were charged with "intent to gain with unwarranted demands" on Crowe in November 1999, or that unless he paid an amount of money, a video tape of a brawl outside a nightclub would be published.

The judge said the prosecution had failed to prove beyond reasonable doubt that the men had made an unwarranted demand or had threatened Crowe and told the jury to dismiss the charges.

Both men had pleaded not guilty to the charge in the New South Wales District Court in Coffs Harbour, a fishing and holiday town about 400 kilometers (250 miles) north of Sydney, near where Crowe has a farm.

Defense counsel Paul King told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) that they will seek hundreds of thousands of dollars in costs.

Crowe was not present for the trial.




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