July 05, 2001 10:30 AM

Paula Poundstone, 41, pleaded innocent Tuesday to child molestation charges in a Santa Monica, Calif., courtroom on Tuesday, though the judge ordered her to stay away from unaccompanied minor children. The standup comedian, who broke down in tears while her attorney Steven Cron spoke to reporters prior to the arraignment, was specifically ordered not to threaten, harass or sexually molest children. Poundstone’s five children — three adopted ones and two more placed in her foster care — have been in protective custody since her June 27 arrest at her Malibu home on charges of committing a lewd act on a girl under age 14 and endangering two other girls and two boys. (The director of Los Angeles County’s Department of Children and Family Services told the L.A. Times that Poundstone’s charges involve the children living with her. An investigation is still reportedly pending.) If convicted of all charges she could face up to 13 years and four months in prison. Poundstone’s arraignment had originally been slated for much later this month, but, her attorney said in a statement, “Paula is eager to get the proceedings going so she can have her day in court.”

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