Photographer: Diaz Signature Likely Forged

A man who took topless photos of actress Cameron Diaz (search) acknowledged that someone had likely faked her signature on a form that purportedly gave him ownership of the pictures — but it wasn't him.

Under cross-examination Wednesday, photographer John Rutter (search) repeatedly said he couldn't remember the exact circumstances leading up to a June 2003 meeting with the film star, in which he tried to sell the 1992 photos to her for $3.5 million. Diaz suspected blackmail and quickly contacted authorities.

Rutter also testified that he initially thought the signature on a model release form he showed Diaz was authentic, adding he was simply giving the "Shrek" and "There's Something About Mary" star "right of first refusal" before he sold the photos to someone else.

Asked repeatedly by Deputy District Attorney David Walgren whether he now believes the signature is fake, Rutter said several times, "It looks like that."

The photographer also said that because he expected Diaz to sue to protect her image and suppress the photos, he lied and told her and others he was living in Paris.

"It was a fabrication. I'm using it to protect myself against action that Diaz and her people might take," he said, acknowledging he also lied about the issue in a federal declaration. He hadn't been to Paris since 1997 and was living in the Venice section of Los Angeles at the time.

Rutter, 42, is charged with attempted grand theft, forgery and perjury. He faces up to six years in prison if convicted. An extortion charge was dropped.

The perjury charge stems not from the federal declaration but another statement in which Rutter said he had kept an original or copy of Diaz's model release form since the shoot.

Under cross-examination from Walgren, Rutter acknowledged he hadn't actually seen the release form until an assistant showed it to him on a computer screen in 2002. He said in a declaration that he took the form out of an envelope to have it scanned into the computer, but backpedaled in court on that point Wednesday.

"It was a mistaken point. ... I can't recall exactly those details," he said, leaning on the witness stand with his shoulders drooping.

Diaz testified last week that she never signed a release form for the shoot, in which she posed in an abandoned warehouse in leather boots and fishnet stockings. She was a 19-year-old aspiring model at the time, gaining fame only after her first movie role in 1994's "The Mask."

Rutter said he approached Diaz in June 2003, just before the release of "Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle" (search), with the idea that release of his pictures could coincide with the film.

Diaz testified that Rutter threatened to sell the images to buyers hoping to portray her as a "bad angel."

A judge has issued a permanent injunction prohibiting him from distributing the photos.

Rutter was to continue his testimony Thursday, with closing arguments planned for Friday, Superior Court Judge Michael Pastor said.