- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Oprah matron on trial

A former dormitory matron at Oprah Winfrey’s school for poor South African girls pleaded innocent Tuesday to charges that she indecently assaulted and otherwise abused six teenagers and a fellow matron at the academy, Associated Press reports.

Tiny Virginia Makopo, 28, looked nervous and sullen at the start of her trial, and she and her lawyer gave no indication what her defense would be. If found guilty, she faces a minimum sentence of 10 years in jail.

Judge Thelma Simpson granted a prosecution request that the rest of the proceedings, expected to last all week, be closed to the public. She also is allowing the teenagers to testify through closed-circuit TV to save them the trauma of confronting their accused attacker in court. Prosecutor Etienne Venter described the girls as “very scared and very, very emotional.”

Miss Winfrey has been deeply embarrassed by the scandal, especially because she told the girls she was the “momma bear” who would protect them. The talk-show host has spoken in the past of being raped by a distant cousin at age 9 and then abused by three other men, trusted family friends. She has campaigned for laws in the United States to protect children from abusers.

Police said the reported abuse took place over four months at her Leadership Academy for Girls and victimized six students ages 13 to 15 and a 23-year-old dormitory matron. Miss Winfrey said school officials tried to hide the facts from her.

Cops: LaBeouf not at fault

Authorities have determined that actor Shia LaBeouf was not at fault for an early morning accident in Los Angeles, AP reports.

Sheriff’s spokesman Steve Whitmore says detectives have determined that the other driver apparently ran a red light and will be cited.

“He was not at fault,” Mr. Whitmore said of the “Transformers” star.

Mr. LaBeouf’s pickup truck collided with another vehicle at 3 a.m. Sunday in West Hollywood. He was booked for a misdemeanor DUI and underwent surgery on his left hand.

‘Rings’ co-star arrested

“Lord of the Rings” co-star Sean Bean, who played Boromir in the award-winning trilogy, was arrested in London Thursday night when his wife called police after a heated argument, TMZ.com says.

Where’s Frodo when you need him?

Mr. Bean’s wife, Georgina Sutcliffe, told police the actor assaulted her during a spat at their home. He was held by police overnight and released on Friday. London police said no further action will be taken against him.

This is Mr. Bean’s fourth marriage. He and Miss Sutcliffe wed in February. Calls to his representative were not returned, TMZ reports.

That’s me in the spotlight

Well, it could be you if you’re selected to appear in ongoing productions of “The Lion King” — onstage at the Kennedy Center through Aug. 24 — and “Mary Poppins.”

Disney Theatrical Productions will be hosting open auditions in the District Aug. 15 through 18, seeking possible future replacements for the Broadway and touring productions of both Tony-winning shows. Auditions are scheduled to take place at the Washington Ballet at THEARC (1901 Mississippi Ave. SE). The open calls are for anyone, regardless of experience, who would like the opportunity to audition and be part of these stage productions. Performers of all cultural backgrounds are encouraged to attend.

The casting search will be overseen by Jennifer Rudin, director of Casting and Talent Development for Disney Theatrical Productions. For more information, visit www.disneyonbroadway.com or e-mail casting@disneyonbroadway.com.

Compiled by Robyn-Denise Yourse from staff, Web and wire reports

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