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NEWS BRIEFS: P. Diddy Back in Court

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DEFENDED: Jury selection begins in Manhattan Monday for a $3 million lawsuit against Sean "P. Diddy" Combs, 34, filed by his former chauffeur, Wardel Fenderson, 45, according to published reports. Fenderson contends he was forced by the music mogul and his bodyguards to speed away from a Times Square nightclub on Dec. 27, 1999, ignoring police orders to stop after a shooting took place. Combs, who was cleared of weapons charges in the case, is expected to take the stand in the suit, and his companion at the time, Jennifer Lopez, reportedly has been subpoenaed.

HOSPITALIZED: British actress Kate Beckinsale, 30, collapsed in her home Saturday as she was preparing to fly to the Sundance Film Festival for the premiere of her latest film, “Tiptoes,” reports USA Today. She was rushed to Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, where doctors were forced to remove her appendix. She is now said to be recovering with the help of fiance Len Wiseman and daughter Lily.

QUOTED: “They say this film could be a career killer. But I don’t care.” — Mel Gibson, 47, in an exclusive interview to the Global Catholic Network (and excerpted on Monday’s “Today” show), on his upcoming film, “The Passion of the Christ”

SENTENCED: Kimberly Mathers, the ex-wife of Eminem, received two years’ probation on a drug charge and a driving offense, prosecutors tell the Associated Press. Mathers, 28, pleaded guilty last month in a Michigan courtroom to charges of possessing 25 grams or less of cocaine and failing to give adequate space to an emergency vehicle. In exchange for the guilty pleas, a third charge of driving with a suspended license and a charge of maintaining a drug house were dismissed, said David Portuesi, chief of the drug crimes unit for the prosecutor’s office.

ASSAULTED: A 16-year-old boy dragged Eminem’s mother, Debbie Nelson, 49, from her Honda Accord while she was at a gas station on the street made infamous by the rapper’s movie “8 Mile,” according to Detroit police. The teenager was arrested shortly after the carjacking Thursday night as he tried to flee from police on foot, and the car was recovered. Nelson told Detroit’s WXYZ-TV that the attacker grabbed her by the hair and arm. She also said she tried to contact her son, but “he apparently must not be in town.”

PRESCRIBED: Stone Temple Pilots lead singer Scott Weiland, 36, was ordered to return to a live-in drug detox center after leaving early, reports the Associated Press. Weiland was ordered to report to the facility last October after pleading no contest to possession of heroin. A Superior Court judge learned Friday that Weiland had walked out or was discharged after only a month and ordered him to return, said Jane Robison, a spokeswoman for the Los Angeles County district attorney’s office.

DELAYED: The Scott Peterson double-murder trial has been postponed for at least a week as the case moves to the San Francisco Bay area and court officials pick a judge. On Friday, Judge Al Girolami set a Feb. 2 hearing in San Mateo County Superior Court, where he ordered the case moved after ruling that it would be difficult to find unbiased jurors in Laci Peterson’s hometown. The delay came a day after prosecutors exercised their option to remove a retired judge appointed to oversee the trial, which was to begin Monday, Jan. 26.

DIED: Alexandra Ripley, 70, the prolific historical fiction writer best known for “Scarlett,” the official sequel to “Gone with the Wind,” died of natural causes Jan. 10 at her Richmond home, her daughter, Elizabeth Lyon Ripley, said Sunday. Her first novel, “Who’s That Lady in the President’s Bed?” was published in 1972 under the pseudonym B.K. Ripley.

HONORED: Microsoft cofounder and chairman Bill Gates, 48, will be awarded an honorary knighthood by Britain’s Queen Elizabeth for an outstanding contribution to enterprise, officials said on Monday. No date for his investiture has been set, and since Gates in not British, he will not be called Sir.