MARQUETTE - The U.S. District Court trial of two Marquette residents accused of trying to extort $680,000 from actor John Stamos was set to begin this morning with jury selection in Marquette.
Scott Edward Sippola, 30, and Allison Lenore Coss, 23, pleaded not guilty in May to a three-count federal grand jury indictment.
Court staff said the trial, with Judge R. Allan Edgar presiding, is slated to take five days. A pool of 60 prospective jurors has been called for the selection process. A jury of 12 will be selected with up to six alternates allowed under court rules.
Prospective jurors will be asked numerous questions by the government and defense attorneys. According to court documents, federal attorneys are expected to ask whether the case has been followed in the media or conversation, whether any of the defendants or attorneys are known to those potentially set to serve as jurors and whether they have served on a jury before.
Among the defense inquiries, attorneys are likely to ask whether the subject matter of the case a potential juror could not impartially judge the defendants, whether they have any relatives or close friends in law enforcement and whether anyone's being a fan of Stamos would influence their ability to be fair and impartial.
Count one in the indictment charges "conspiracy to extort money by use of interstate communication," while counts two and three charge "transmission of interstate communication of threat to injure the reputation of another with intent to extort money."
Court documents said the charges are based on allegations the couple contacted Stamos via email, using the pseudonym "Brian L.," offering Stamos the first option to purchase certain unflattering photographs, which they otherwise intended to sell to tabloids.
The defendants contend they had a right to the photographs and were offering Stamos a legitimate business offer.
Sippola and Coss were arrested Dec. 2 at Sawyer International Airport as they allegedly waited for an undercover FBI agent posing as a Stamos go-between to deliver the money.
The photos offered were said to have been taken of Coss and the actor in Florida in 2004.
John Pepin can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 206. His e-mail address is email@example.com.