Clerk didn't try to blackmail Max
Cape Town - Former police clerk Belinda Petersen was found not guilty on Wednesday of attempting to extort DA politician and former Western Cape police chief Lennit Max.
Her acquittal, in the Cape Town Regional Court, brought to an end a protracted trial before Magistrate Michelle Adams.
The trial saw Petersen alleging that Max had suggested "payment in kind" for his services as her advocate in a police disciplinary inquiry.
In the course of the hearing, Petersen alleged that she had had three sexual liaisons with Max, as "payment in kind" for his legal services.
One, she alleged, was in Max's home in broad daylight, when his wife was away, first on the marital bed and then, the same day, in Max's son's bedroom.
The second was in a hotel room, and the third a late-afternoon meeting in Max's office.
Although Max denied the allegations outright, Adams said it was not necessary, for the purposes of the judgment, for her to rule on their veracity.
Max himself was not present during the judgment.
Max had represented Petersen at a police disciplinary inquiry, but had withdrawn as her advocate before the inquiry had finalised.
The inquiry ended with Petersen's dismissal from the police service, as a result of which Max, at the time the Western Cape community safety MEC, promised to look out for a job for her in his department.
When the promise failed to materialise, Petersen said she would "take action" and that "he would hear from her again".
Adams said Max, in the course of his testimony, had been vague on crucial aspects of the case and on pertinent issues.
He did not make a good impression on the court, and had gone out of his way to portray Petersen in a negative light, Adams said.
Of Petersen, the magistrate said: "She is no angel, and could turn on the charm as and when necessary."
Petersen had told the court of a closed-circuit TV system that was hidden in a cupboard in Max's son's bedroom.
She alleged that Max had opened the cupboard and switched the TV on, so as to monitor movements outside while they had sex in the son's bedroom.
Of this, Adams said: "The probabilities favour her, as to how she came to know details of the inside of Max's home."
She said Max had done nothing about Petersen's threat, and it was only when he became aware of the report in the Son newspaper, "that he read sinister motives into her behaviour".