- Associated Press - Friday, July 16, 2010

MILAN (AP) - It’s no wonder the Italian businessmen claimed George Clooney was behind their fashion line _ the actor knows how to wow an audience whether he’s on the red carpet or the witness stand.

Maintaining his trademark aura of cool, Clooney delivered a few wisecracks Friday as he testified against three defendants accused of co-opting his name with the goal of launching a fashion line.

The appearance of the star, who maintains a villa on nearby Lake Como but is rarely seen here in public, sent the normally staid courthouse into full celebrity tilt. Clooney had to push his way through a wall of cameras into the courtroom, saying “scusa, scusa,” _ “Excuse me” in Italian _ and warning “Don’t crush my lawyers.”

Throngs of fans packed the tiny courtroom. The judge repeatedly told spectators to be quiet and tossed out one woman who snapped a photo of Clooney.

The 49-year-old actor wore a navy blue suit, crisp white shirt and red-spotted blue tie as he addressed the court through an interpreter, throwing in occasional words in Italian and apologizing for his lack of fluency.

He testified that photos that purported to show him with two of the defendants were doctored and signatures on documents also were forged.

Only one defendant _ Vincenzo Cannalire _ attended the trial.

Clooney turned to greet him after recognizing the man from of the photos he was looking at.

“This is the first time I’ve ever seen him,” Clooney said, motioning to the defendant. Then with just a trace of irony, Clooney added, “So I’d like to say hello, nice to meet you.”

Two others also charged with criminal fraud in the case are Vanja Goffi and Francesco Galdelli.

Clooney said one photo purporting to show him with Goffi was instead doctored from a photo of Clooney and an ex-girlfriend in real life.

The actor said he had never met Goffi but knew of her from stories on the Internet that claimed the two had a romantic relationship.

“Of course, I have seen her for the last three years in every single interview story nearly every day,” Clooney said with a hint of annoyance. The actor said the woman had even moved to the town in Italy where he spends about two months a year, but added: “I’ve never met her. I’ve never seen her.”

Examining other photos, Clooney explained why he was not the man in one particular picture.

“Here, for instance. I don’t smoke and I don’t wear that watch,” Clooney said. Then after a pause he added, “I also don’t wear long jean shorts.”

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