Michael Jackson pleaded not guilty today in a Santa Maria, Calif., court to charges of child molestation and conspiracy involving child abduction and extortion, The Associated Press reports. The grand jury indictment also alleged lewd acts and attempted lewd acts involving a child, as well as administering an intoxicating agent to a child. Jackson, wearing a black jacket with a red armband and a red tie, arrived 40 minutes early and entered the courtroom under his customary umbrella. After entering a plea of not guilty, the 45-year-old singer left the courthouse and thanked the fans around the world for their love and support "from every corner of the Earth." In brief comments afterward, Jackson's new defense attorney, Thomas Mesereau Jr., said the case should not be about lawyers or celebrity. "This case is about one thing only,' he said. "It's about the dignity, the integrity, the decency, the honor, the charity, the innocence and the complete vindication about a wonderful human being named Michael Jackson." Police Chief Danny Macagni told the AP 42 of the city's 107 police officers were assigned to the courthouse, along with about 50 sheriff's deputies, to handle the hordes of fans.
Actor Quits Film Over Animal Killing
Actor John C. Reilly walked off the Swedish set of director Lars von Trier 's Manderlay to protest the killing of a donkey for the shoot, a production spokeswoman told Reuters Thursday. The spokeswoman said they tried to use a puppet instead of a real donkey but when that didn't work they asked a veterinarian to provide us with an animal that was due to be slaughtered anyway. "Because of the film," she added, "this poor donkey lived two more months than it would have otherwise." Reilly was quickly replaced by Slovenian actor Zeljko Ivanek.
The Olsen Twins Get Their Stars
Seventeen-year-old twins Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen each received a star on the Walk of Fame yesterday in recognition of their contribution to television, the AP reports. The event was timed to promote their first feature film, New York Minute, in theaters May 7. They hugged and held hands while posing by the stars, located in front of the Hollywood & Highland mall complex on Hollywood Boulevard. The two will also host the season finale of NBC's Saturday Night Live on May 15.
Christina Aguilera Cancels Tour
Singer Christina Aguilera has canceled her North American tour plans due to strained vocal chords, Reuters reports. Aguilera was set to kick off her 28-city tour May 13 in Seattle with rapper Chingy. "I am extremely disappointed to have to cancel this tour," the singer said in a statement. "I was looking forward to being on the road again and spending time with my fans." According to a statement, doctors advised Aguilera to rest immediately and allow her voice time to recover.
Affleck Supports Minimum Wage Increase
Ben Affleck, a former dishwasher and waiter, was on Capitol Hill Thursday to promote an increase in the federal hourly minimum wage from $5.15 to $7 as proposed by his home state senator, Edward Kennedy, D-Mass, the AP reports. "Perhaps the senator saw my movie Gigli last fall and figured I'd be working for minimum wage myself," Affleck joked, adding more seriously: "I know firsthand what a struggle it was to try to raise a family on such a small salary. Nobody is going to get rich off of making $7 an hour."
Jolie Visits Detained U.S. Asylum Seekers
Angelina Jolie, meanwhile, visited facilities in Arizona where children separated from their asylum-seeking parents are being detained by the United States. "Many of these children have survived tragedy so being separated from their families can only add to their suffering," Jolie, a goodwill ambassador for the U.N. refugee agency UNHCR, said. According to U.N. chief spokesman Fred Eckhard, some 5,000 children are detained each year in the United States while seeking asylum.
Third Adult-Movie Performer Contracts HIV
An adult-movie actress known as Jessica Dee has become the third performer to test positive for HIV in an wave that has shut down many productions in the porn industry. According to the AP, Dee had sex with five men who were later placed on a voluntary quarantine list, after the first HIV case was announced April 12. A total of 53 people were listed for quarantine, according to Sharon Mitchell, executive director of the nonprofit Adult Industry Medical Healthcare Foundation, which screens performers for sexually transmitted diseases. The outbreak began after a performer with the stage name Darren James apparently contracted HIV while filming unprotected sex scenes in Brazil. He returned to the United States and apparently infected Lara Roxx during film shoots, Mitchell told The New York Times.
LaPaglia, Wood, Honored at Prism Awards
Winners of the eighth annual Entertainment Industry Council's PRISM awards, which are given for the realistic depiction of alcohol, drug and tobacco use, were announced last night at the Hollywood Palladium in Calif. Anthony LaPaglia won for his performance in Happy Hour; Evan Rachel Wood was honored for her performance in Thirteen; and the Brazilian film City of God took home the prize for theatrical feature film. In television, Dennis Franz was honored for performance in NYPD Blue and Peter Krause for Six Feet Under. Honored for their contribution to the organization were: HBO for America Undercover: Crank: Made in America; MTV, for MTV News Now: Jack Osbourne: Back From Rehab; and ESPN for the May 11, 2003 episode of SportsCenter.
Role Call: Thornton Goes From Bad Santa to Bad News Bears
Billy Bob Thornton will star in the remake of Paramount Pictures' 1976 film The Bad News Bears. Thornton will portray the coach of the Little League team of misfits originally played by Walter Matthau. The project will be written by Glenn Ficarra and John Requa, the scribes responsible for Thornton's recent hit, Bad Santa.