LEGAL BRIEFS Ms. Roberts went to Washington. Julia Roberts testified before a House Appropriations subcomittee yesterday to lobby for more spending on Rett’s syndrome, a neurological disorder that attacks young girls and usually disables them by the time they’re 3 years old. ”They listen but cannot speak. They struggle to do the many things we take for granted everyday,” Roberts told the subcommittee. There are about 200,000 women and girls in the world afflicted with the disease; one of them was Abigail Brodsky, a Brooklyn girl Roberts befriended last year when she was shooting a one-hour documentary on the disease for the Discovery Health Channel. ”Abigail was my pal,” Roberts said, as she choked back tears. ”We spent time together without words. We connected with our eyes.” Brodsky died last June at age 10. Roberts asked the subcommittee to increase research funding for Rett’s to $15.5 million next year, nearly five times the amount currently allotted, and about $5 million less than Roberts earns per picture….
Roberts’ sometime costar Richard Gere faced his own legal drama yesterday as a woman accused of stalking him and leaving as many as 1,000 voicemail messages for him over the past year was deemed psychologically fit for trial and arraigned yesterday in Manhattan. Ursula Reichert-Habbishaw, 51, of Kassell, Germany, was charged with harassment, aggravated harassment, and stalking, and held on $5,000 bail. She allegedly showed up at his New York office a number of times, where she was consistently turned away by his assistant before she could meet the actor, and left such phone messages as ”Death seems to be the best,” ”I can take a pistol and kill myself,” ”I will stay with you for all time,” and ”I will follow you.” She was arrested in his office on April 30 and faces up to a year in jail. A judge granted Gere a restraining order and set a new court date for May 16….
There’s a new ”Spider-Man” suit, and it’s not the one Tobey Maguire designed in his bedroom. The decade-long legal entanglement over the rights to the character took a new twist yesterday as sued Disney’s over promotional art and advertisements used to market the retailer’s new collection of Spidey cartoons from the 1960s TV series. (Disney holds the license to those cartoons and has been airing them on its ABC Family channel.) In papers filed yesterday in Manhattan, Marvel argues that Disney copied the posters for the ”Spider-Man” movie and video game, the images that appear to look down at Spidey climbing the face of a skyscraper. Marvel wants a court order to get Disney to pull the artwork and seeks unspecified damages….
After a 10-minute hearing in a Los Angeles court on Thursday, Robert Blake‘s 35-year-old daughter Delinah won temporary custody of Rosie, the 23-month-old child of Blake and Bonny Bakley, whom Delinah has cared for since birth. Still, the Bakley family wants to take further action to make sure that the toddler is well treated, and that her accused-murderer father visits only for an hour at a time, under the supervision of an armed bodyguard. They’re worried that Blake is ”depressed, suicidal and could take Rosie down with him, if he decided to hurt himself,” their lawyer said. Um, the guy’s in jail without bail. He’s not visiting anybody anytime soon….
R. Kelly says he hasn’t seen the sex video that purportedly shows him committing statutory rape, but he swears he’s not the guy depicted on it. He spoke at length for the first time about the sex allegations against him on Wednesday night’s ”BET Tonight with Ed Gordon.” ”I can say in all confidence that it’s not me because I didn’t do it. I want America to know that you can’t believe everything you hear, and nowadays, you can’t believe everything you see.” The tape, which surfaced a couple months ago and has been circulating on the Internet and on the street, has prompted an investigation by the Chicago police. Kelly has already settled two lawsuits that accused him of seducing underage girls and is still facing a third. He told Gordon, however, that he is innocent of all charges and settled the suits on the advice of his lawyers, and that he will fight the current suit. ”I am not a monster that people are saying I am,” said the 33-year-old singer, who is married and has two kids. Years ago, Kelly secretly married then-protégée Aaliyah when she was only 15, but her parents found out and had the marriage annulled after a few months. Of that liaison, he said, ”It has nothing to do with this. I don’t really think it’s fair to say anything about Aaliyah.” As for his other protege, Sparkle, who claims her niece is the girl on the tape, Kelly said she was lashing out because he had declined to produce her next album….