April 09, 2002 12:00 PM

The trial in Sydney, Australia, of three men who stand accused of trying to extort a large sum of money from Russell Crowe was postponed Monday because of press attention on the case, reports the Associated Press. Philip Antony Cropper, 36, and Malcolm Brian Mercer, 37, are charged with attempting to shake down the Oscar-winning “Gladiator” star, who turned 38 last Sunday. Crowe was not in court for Monday’s session. The accused, along with Mark James Potts, 42, also face charges of obstruction of justice. If convicted, reports the AP, they face a maximum sentence of 14 years. The men allegedly attempted to extort money from the star in exchange for destroying a 1999 security video that purportedly shows him involved in a brawl outside a nightclub in Coffs Harbor, the Australian town where Crowe owns a ranch. In Monday’s pretrial hearing at the Coffs Harbor District Court, judge David Freeman agreed to postpone the trial due to concerns raised by weekend press reports. The jurist made clear that he does not intend to inhibit the press, “I am simply asking that you exercise good judgment,” he told reporters. The case is expected to resume in June, though a date has yet to be set.

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