Archive for Thursday, September 4, 2008

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September 4, 2008

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Claims dismissed in Ledger tape lawsuit

Los Angeles - A judge on Wednesday dealt a serious but possibly temporary blow to a lawsuit filed by a celebrity magazine reporter who has accused a paparazzi agency of secretly filming Heath Ledger doing drugs in her hotel room.

Superior Court Judge John S. Wiley Jr. tentatively dismissed 11 of 12 claims filed against the agency and two photographers, saying most of the allegations lacked legal standing.

He allowed attorneys to file an amended complaint that could restore some of the claims.

The woman, identified in court documents only as "Jane Doe," sued Splash News & Picture Agency and two of its photographers in April, alleging fraud, intrusion, unjust enrichment and other claims over the filming of Ledger in 2006. The woman was on assignment for People magazine at the time.

According to the lawsuit, the tape was made after the Golden Globe awards in January 2006 and wasn't revealed until after Ledger's death from an accidental prescription drug overdose earlier this year. "Entertainment Tonight" and its sister show, "The Insider," had planned to air the footage, but canceled those plans after feeling pressure from publicists and other Ledger supporters.

The video later surfaced online.

The lawsuit states the video was shot from a balcony of the reporter's hotel room, and that Ledger became upset when he realized he was being taped. The photographers placated Ledger by telling him they would destroy the tape, the suit claims.

Mara Buxbaum, a publicist who represented Ledger, did not return a phone call or e-mail seeking comment.

Spears to open MTV Video Music Awards

New York - It's Britney, baby, one more time.

Despite her train-wreck performance at the MTV Video Music Awards last year, the network confirms Britney Spears will kick off the show once again.

But it won't be a performance. Instead, MTV Networks Music Group President Van Toffler said Wednesday, it'll be something "fun and unexpected" on Sunday night's show.

Unexpected is probably the kindest way to describe Spears' performance at last year's VMAs. In what was promoted as the troubled singer's comeback, she gave an unfocused, almost unwatchable performance of "Gimme More."

So what made Spears and MTV reunite one more time?

"MTV has long played an important role in my career. How can I not be there to kick off their 25th VMAs?" Spears said in a statement.

"I think for Britney, people are rooting for her, and she's really on the road to recovery," Toffler said, noting that MTV had nominated her for three VMAs, including video of the year, for her clip "Piece of Me."

While she bombed in 2007, Spears has given the VMAs many highlights over the years, from her kiss with Madonna to her performance with a writhing snake.

Spears also equals ratings gold: Last year's VMAs were up 23 percent over the 2006 show.

So far, the confirmed performers for Sunday's show include the Jonas Brothers, Lil Wayne, Rihanna, T.I. and Kid Rock. Toffler also raised the possibility of another troubled pop icon appearing: Michael Jackson.

Phillips faces charges of drug possession

Los Angeles - Mackenzie Phillips was charged Wednesday with felony possession of drugs for allegedly carrying narcotics at Los Angeles International Airport.

District attorney's spokeswoman Jane Robison said the former teen star was charged with two felony counts of possession of a controlled substance, heroin and cocaine.

She was arrested last week at the airport after failing a security screening while trying to catch a flight to New York. A secondary search turned up needles and suspected drugs, authorities said.

Phillips' attorney, Blair Berk, told a judge Wednesday that the actress has entered rehab.

She also faces a misdemeanor count of unauthorized possession of a needle or syringe.

Phillips, 48, is out on $20,000 bail and is scheduled to be arraigned Oct.3.

Akon to go on trial over fan-toss case

Fishkill, N.Y. - Akon is headed to trial on criminal charges he tossed a fan offstage at an upstate concert last summer.

The 35-year-old singer is accused of tossing a teenager off the stage during a June 2007 concert at a minor league baseball stadium near Poughkeepsie. Another concertgoer said she suffered a concussion when the boy landed on her.

Akon, whose real name is Aliaune Thiam, asked for the jury trial during a brief appearance with his lawyer in Fishkill Town Court on Wednesday. He's due back in court for trial Dec. 1 unless a deal is negotiated in the meantime.

He pleaded not guilty in December to misdemeanor charges of endangering the welfare of a minor and second-degree harassment, a violation.

In court Wednesday, Judge Harold Epstein met privately with Akon's lawyer, Andrea Zellan, and Dutchess County Assistant District Attorney Anthony Parisi before announcing the case would go to trial unless a deal is reached.

Akon's hits include "Smack That" with Eminem and "I Wanna Love You" with Snoop Dogg. His most recent album, "Konvicted," was nominated for four Grammy Awards.

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