Plus, the music charts and TV ratings

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LEGAL BRIEF Paula Poundstone avoided trial in her child abuse case with a plea agreement that cleared her of lewd conduct charges. She pleaded no contest in Los Angeles Superior Court to a felony charge of child endangerment and a misdemeanor charge of inflicting injury on a child. ”The lewd conduct charges against me were dropped because they weren’t true,” Poundstone said in an issued statement. ”I pled no-contest to the child endangerment-injury charges because they were. My drinking helped to create a dangerous situation for the children. For this, I am very sorry.” The 41-year-old comedian was sentenced to five years supervised probation and 180 days in a secure drug and alcohol rehabilitation center in lieu of jail. Poundstone was already in rehab when she was arrested in June. She lost custody of her three adopted children upon her arrest, but she could get them back. However, she will not regain custody of her two foster children and will not be eligible to take in additional foster children.

THE CHARTS Boosted by her performance of ”Fallin”’ at the MTV Video Music Awards, Alicia Keys‘s ”Songs in A Minor” returned to the top spot on the Billboard chart, selling 192,350 additional copies, according to SoundScan. System of a Down‘s ”Toxicity” debuted at No. 2, selling 179,100 records. Aaliyah‘s self-titled album was at No. 3 (160,550 units). At No. 4 was ”NOW That’s What I Call Music! Vol. 7” (147,225 copies), neck and neck with Mary J. Blige‘s ”No More Drama” at No. 5 (147,175 sold).

The VMAs also pushed several other sliding acts back into the top 10, with Staind‘s ”Break the Cycle” jumped to No. 6, Linkin Park‘s ”Hybrid Theory” rose to No. 7, and ‘N Sync‘s ”Celebrity” climbed to No. 9. Maxwell‘s ”Now” was at No. 8, and Afroman‘s ”The Good Times” got as high as No. 10. Watch for top 10 debuts next week by Mariah Carey, Babyface, and Bob Dylan — if people are still in a record-buying mood.

On TV, Barbara Walters‘s interview with Anne Heche made last Wednesday’s ”20/20” the week’s top-rated show, drawing 13.26 million viewers, according to Nielsen. That show and three episodes of ”Who Wants To Be a Millionaire” gave ABC a narrow victory for the week, averaging 9 million viewers. CBS was a close second, with 8.9 million viewers, then NBC (8.2 million), Fox (6.8 million), UPN (3.2 million), and the WB (3.1 million).

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