PLED: John Rutter, 41, the photographer accused of using a pre-fame photo session of Cameron Diaz to extort $3.3 million from the actress, declared his innocence in a Los Angeles courtroom yesterday, reports the Associated Press. The actress, who turns 31 on Saturday, insists that she never signed a photo release for the session, which took place long before her star turn in 1994’s “The Mask.” Rutter, who faces a prison sentence of up to six years if he’s convicted on charges of extortion, grand theft, perjury and forgery, was arrested August 12 and held in lieu of $250,000 bail. His attorney told AP outside the courtroom that his client’s photographs of Diaz — which were sealed by a court order earlier this month — do not she the actress topless and have been misrepresented in the press. “You’ll be surprised how tame some of these shots are,” attorney John Powers told AP. Rutter is scheduled to return to court for a preliminary hearing on September 10.
BRANDED: Pretty soon you’ll be able to wear your ESPN brand sunglasses and helmet while you ride your ESPN skateboard. The cable sports broadcaster is entering the retail market with an assortment of licensed sports gear, the head of the Walt Disney Co. unit’s new business division told Reuters Thursday. “The ESPN brand hasn’t really been exploited yet in the consumer product sense, but we think there are opportunities there,” Rick Alessandri, general manager of ESPN Enterprises, told the news service. Disney is working directly with retailers to develop the products.
SILENCED: Two critics of former Minnesota Gov. Jesse Venture have been prohibited by a court order from contacting the wrestling star-turned-politician for one year, not two, reports the Associated Press. The ruling, handed down by a Ramsey County District judge yesterday, abbreviated the length of time prohibiting former political opponent Bill Dahn and environmental activist Leslie Davis from having postal, e-mail, telephone or personal contact with Ventura. Earlier, another judge had issued a temporary restraining order against the pair for two years. Dahn and Davis had been protesting regularly outside the St. Paul public television studios where Ventura has been taping pilot episodes of a planned MSNBC program.
FETED: “The Late Show” with David Letterman will mark its 10th anniversary on CBS tonight with a commemorative top 10 list, and an hour-long primetime special is in the works, notes the Hollywood Reporter. Among the top 10 “good things” about being on CBS for 10 years the host will reveal tonight: “No matter how many years you’re at the network, you’ll never be as old as the ’60 Minutes’ guys” (No. 8) and “CBS? I thought this was ABC’ (No. 1).” Letterman’s primetime anniversary special will air on CBS in February.