Stephen M. Silverman
July 30, 2004 12:00 PM

BRIDE-TO-BE BRANDY: Singer Brandy and NBA star Quentin Richardson are engaged, PEOPLE reported exclusively. The Chicago-born L.A. Clippers guard, 24, surprised the Mississippi-born former Moesha star, 25, at a private reception at L.A.’s Century Club attended by their families and close friends on Tuesday. Sweetening the surprise: a diamond ring totaling 11 1/2 carats and valued at $1 million. Jeweler Jason Arasheben spent months designing the unique ring – and finished it only 30 minutes before the proposal. Says Arasheben: “It was a total surprise for her.”

UN-‘SIMPLE’ SPLIT: After seven months together, Backstreet Boy Nick Carter, 24, and “The Simple Life'”s Paris Hilton, 23, called it quits on July 22. Paris preferred to have her rep confirm the split. Carter, however, briefed PEOPLE in the Aug. 9 issue about the relationship, which he said “totally was based on distrust. She didn’t trust me. I didn’t trust her.” The final straw: “We both got on the phone, had a discussion and agreed we couldn’t do this anymore.” While Hilton’s reps assert that the heiress broke it off, Carter says: “Obviously, that’s the way they’re going to try to make it look. (The breakup) is mutual.”

JACKSON CASED: On Tuesday, prosecutors in Michael Jackson’s case offered a first glimpse behind the conspiracy charges faced by the star, claiming that the singer imprisoned a young boy and forced his family to make a video absolving him of molestation claims. Deputy District Attorney Gordon Auchincloss told the court the star helped manipulate the situation by offering lavish vacations to the boy’s parents. Jackson attorney Thomas Mesereau Jr. said: “The idea that they were imprisoned and forced to fly on private jets to Florida, to socialize with celebrities such as Chris Tucker, is absurd on its face. It would be laughed out of court by a jury.”

JUSTIN’S JABS: Justin Timberlake made news on two legal fronts this week – one, to secure a restraining order against paparazzo Artemus Earl Lister, who the pop singer says is stalking him, and another, with a libel suit against Britain’s News of the World, for saying he was unfaithful to girlfriend Cameron Diaz. “It’s about time that somebody did something about these stalkerazzis,” publicist Ken Sunshine told the Associated Press about the Lister matter. As for the libel case, lawyers initiated the suit after the newspaper, which reportedly stands by its story of model Lucy Clarkson’s spending two “sizzling nights” with the star, refused Timberlake’s request for damages and a retraction.

LOVE’S LABOR: Pledging herself to sobriety, Courtney Love on Tuesday made her first public appearance since being hospitalized as a fugitive on July 9 and was sentenced to mandatory drug treatment in one of four criminal cases against her. “I’ve got to stop drinking. It’s gonna be fun,” the rocker, 40, told a mob of reporters outside the Los Angeles courthouse. Judge Patricia Schnegg ordered Love, whose sentence was part of a plea bargain, to check into a court-approved, 18-month rehab program by Oct. 29. The entertainer must also submit to random drug testing and substance-abuse counseling.

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