Dance star Michael Flatley's $102 million (GBP55.5 million) legal battle against a woman who accuses him of rape can now proceed to trial, the California Supreme Court ruled yesterday (27JUL06). The Irish RIVERDANCE creator filed his suit against TYNA MARIE ROBERTSON in January 2003 after he received a letter from her lawyer claiming he sexually assaulted her in a Las Vegas hotel in 2002. Robertson's lawyer DEAN MAURO threatened to sue unless the dancer agreed to a "seven figure" settlement, according to court papers. Police declined to press charges and Flatley insisted he had had consensual sex with Robertson. The accuser then filed an $33 million (GBP18 million) civil sexual assault suit in Illinois, which was later dismissed. The 48-year-old dancer in turn countersued - claiming extortion, fraud and defamation. A panel on behalf of the Supreme Court wrote, "Mauro's communications constituted criminal extortion as a matter of law and, as such, were unprotected by constitutional guarantees of free speech or petition." Flatley's lawyer BERT FIELDS says, "Celebrities are so frequently targeted with claims that they've committed some kind of misconduct, usually of a sexual nature. "Because of the Supreme Court ruling, we can make these people go to trial and prove our case."