June 20, 2002 12:00 PM

Australians Philip Antony Cropper, 36, and Malcolm Brian Mercer, 37, tried to use video footage showing Russell Crowe in a drunken brawl outside a nightclub Down Under to blackmail the Oscar-winning actor, prosecutor Colin McPherson told a Sydney district court Wednesday, reports the Associated Press. The two men, who face a maximum sentence of 10 years if convicted, have been charged with trying to extort $112,000 from the “A Beautiful Mind” star in exchange for destroying the security video taken in November 1999. McPherson said at the trial that Crowe appeared to start an early morning fight outside the Saloon Bar nightclub in Coffs Harbor, a resort town north of Sydney where the actor owns a cattle ranch. The video footage depicted Crowe “manhandle one particular male person . . . and he remonstrated fairly heavily with a female person,” McPherson said. Minutes later, Crowe was driven away in a stretch limo. The AP reports that jurors were informed that Cropper and Mercer attempted to contact Crowe with the offer to sell him the allegedly incriminating video. McPherson did not say how the men obtained the tape (the camera belonged to the club), but he stated that law authorities were alerted and began monitoring Cropper and Mercer’s phone calls, discovering their attempts “to make a quick quid” (slang for money). Crowe, 38, is said to be shooting a new movie in Mexico and is not expected to appear at the trial, which should last a week, the AP reports.

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