MARQUETTE, Mich. – A Michigan woman accused of plotting to scam John Stamos out of hundreds of thousands of dollars insisted Wednesday she once had a photo of the "Full House" and "ER" star snorting cocaine in Florida six years ago, even though that picture can no longer be found.
Testifying in her own defense in U.S. District Court, Allison Coss also confessed she and boyfriend Scott Sippola had lied repeatedly to Stamos in e-mails threatening to sell photos of him with drugs and strippers to celebrity tabloids unless he bought them for $680,000. Coss, 24, described her actions as immoral but not illegal.
"We made stories up," she said.
But she insisted she did have a photo of Stamos using drugs, testifying under cross-examination that Sippola had put it in a folder and she'd last seen it about a week before their December arrest. Prosecutors contend such a photo doesn't exist, and FBI agents have testified that they found no compromising images of Stamos while searching the defendants' home and vehicles.
Coss became emotional during a grueling cross-examination, as Assistant U.S. Attorney Paul Lochner challenged her contention that she had preferred selling the images to Stamos instead of tabloids partly because she considered him a friend and wanted to spare him pain.
"You wanted not to hurt him, yet you were willing to take $680,000 of his money?" Lochner asked. "What kind of a friend does something like that?"
After pausing to compose herself, Coss replied softly, "Not a very good one."
But she repeated allegations made by her attorney during opening arguments that Stamos had stripped and sat in a hot tub with the scantily clad Coss during a visit to his hotel suite in Orlando, Fla., in 2004, when she was a 17-year-old high school student.
She also said Stamos made sexual advances as they kissed on a bed in his room and that one of several photos she and a friend took that night showed him "doing a line" of cocaine.
"After that night, I didn't have a great impression of him," Coss said. But she said her opinion changed over the next few years as they developed a close e-mail friendship and that she once visited him when he was working in Chicago.
John Lane, who dated Coss for several years, testified he had seen several of her photos showing Stamos and what appeared to be cocaine.
Stamos testified Tuesday that he had socialized with Coss in Florida while unwinding with friends after a painful separation from his supermodel wife. But he denied the hot tub incident and said he hadn't used cocaine.
Coss and Sippola, 31, are charged with conspiracy and two counts of extortion. If convicted, the Marquette couple could get up to five years in prison on the conspiracy charge and two years on each extortion count.
Judge R. Allan Edgar told jurors he expected them to get the case Thursday, although defense attorney Sarah Henderson said she was "trying desperately" to locate a final witness, whom she did not identify. Sippola has not testified.
Under questioning by Henderson, Coss said it was Sippola who proposed selling the pictures of Stamos to tabloids. Coss said she initially was reluctant but eventually went along.
Coss acknowledged sending Stamos two e-mails with a pseudonym in September 2009, saying he had impregnated her at age 17. But after the actor's attorney responded with an e-mail threatening a lawsuit, she and Sippola dropped that approach.
They investigated the potential value of embarrassing photos and sounded out several publications, including the National Enquirer and Star Magazine, she said. They also researched the legal definition of extortion and were convinced they weren't breaking the law, said Coss, who has a degree is in criminal justice.
Coss said she began sending Stamos e-mails falsely saying a man was claiming to have incriminating photos of her and Stamos. She and Sippola eventually posed as "Brian L," who said in e-mails he'd been offered $780,000 in a tabloid bidding war but would let Stamos have the pictures for $680,000. In fact, the publications had made no such offers, Coss said.
Stamos contacted the FBI in late November.
Lochner, the prosecutor, tried to discredit Coss' contention that she ever had photos of Stamos using drugs. Lochner produced a sheet of paper on which Coss had scribbled brief descriptions of several of her Florida photos. The note was meant to assist Sippola during his telephone negotiations with the tabloids, Coss said.
If so, the prosecutor asked, why did the note omit any mention of photos with Stamos using drugs?
There was no need to list the cocaine photo, Coss replied. She knew Sippola wouldn't forget it.