SYDNEY, Australia (AP) – Authorities dropped an assault charge filed against the lead singer of Australian rock band The Vines after his lawyers said he has Asperger’s syndrome.

Craig Nicholls was charged for allegedly kicking a press photographer and damaging her camera at one of his band’s concerts in Sydney six months ago.

Magistrate Susan Seagrave dropped the assault case Friday during a hearing at Sydney’s Balmain Local Court on condition Nicholls continue medical treatment for Asperger’s syndrome, The Australian newspaper said.

Asperger’s is an autism-related condition characterized by social and communication deficiencies.

The Australian reported that Nicholls was diagnosed with Asperger’s after the alleged assault in May.

Lawyers for the 26-year-old singer told the court of the medical diagnosis two weeks ago, the newspaper quoted police prosecutor Sgt. Matthew Baker as telling the court.

A statement from The Vines’ management posted on their Web site said: “We are very relieved that Craig has received an unconditional discharge in relation to charges of assault and malicious damage stemming from an incident at the Annandale Hotel in Sydney in May, when he allegedly kicked a photographer’s camera during a gig.

“The band has not broken up, and Craig looks forward to doing what he loves and lives for – getting back to writing and recording music with The Vines.”

Jermaine Jackson divorced

LOS ANGELES (AP) – Former Jackson 5 entertainer Jermaine Jackson, older brother of pop star Michael Jackson, has filed for divorce from his wife of nine years.

The Superior Court divorce petition, filed Nov. 19, to dissolve the marriage of Jermaine and Alejandra Jackson asks that their children – Jaafar, 8, and Jermajesty, 4 – live with their mother. They live in suburban Encino.

The couple were married on March 18, 1995, and separated on Nov. 15. The court document cited irreconcilable differences as the reason for the split.

Jermaine Jackson, who turns 50 on Dec. 11, has three children from a previous marriage to Hazel Gordy, daughter of Motown founder Berry Gordy. He also has two children with another woman.

NEW YORK (AP) – Red-carpet fashion maven Steven Cojocaru, who has polycystic kidney disease, says he hopes to have a transplant operation in early winter.

“There is a bit of a window right now where I have some kidney function,” Cojocaru said Tuesday on NBC’s “Today” show. “But basically I have to get a kidney transplant as soon as possible. We’re talking sometime in the near future, hopefully early winter.”

Polycystic kidney disease is a common hereditary disease that affects about 600,000 Americans, according to Cojocaru, who became known for his snappy assessment of celebrity awards show fashion.

“What I’ve learned is you can’t ask someone to give you a kidney. You sit back and hope your loved ones are going to come forward. And I’m completely floored by the people who have come forward. Not only my close family and friends,” Cojocaru said.

Cojocaru is a contributor to the “Today” show and a correspondent for the syndicated “Entertainment Tonight” and “The Insider” television shows. He revealed his illness in an interview Monday night on “Entertainment Tonight.”

Of his new effort to raise awareness about organ donation, Cojocaru said on the “Today” show, “I want to do that big time. You know? It didn’t start out that way. This has been a process. But … I think we know that I have the biggest mouth in Hollywood, and maybe I can finally do something good. You know?

“Overnight it’s kind of a real purpose. Yeah, this really fires me up.”

Polycystic kidney disease causes cysts to grow in both kidneys, diminishing functioning tissue, according to the “Merck Manual of Medical Information.”

More than half of those with the disease, which can become evident in childhood or in later life, develop kidney failure at some point and require dialysis or kidney transplantation, the “Merck Manual” said.

ST. LOUIS (AP) – The University of Southern California is probing allegations that Wal-Mart heiress Elizabeth Paige Laurie cheated her way through school, according to a local TV station.

KSDK-TV said Monday the inquiry came three days after ABC newsmagazine “20/20” cited Laurie, who graduated from USC, during a segment on cheating in college.

The “20/20” report was based on an interview with Laurie’s freshman roommate, Elena Martinez, who said Laurie paid her about $20,000 over 3 ½ years to write papers and complete other assignments.

On Monday, a University of Southern California official said the matter was “disappointing and strikes at the heart of integrity.”

“One must do one’s own work. One must not ask others to do work for them and try to get an unfair advantage over other students,” said Michael Jackson, the school’s vice president of student affairs.

KSDK said that as part of the investigation, the school would contact 22-year-old Laurie and her former roommate.

Laurie’s family has declined comment, saying in a statement to “20/20” that “Paige Laurie’s college record is a private matter.”

Martinez told the newsmagazine she began helping Laurie as an effort to befriend her during their freshman year.

Laurie is the only daughter of billionaires Bill and Nancy Laurie, Columbia residents who liquidated $25 million in Wal-Mart stock to jump-start construction of the new $75 million basketball arena at the University of Missouri. Nancy Laurie is the daughter of the late Bud Walton, co-founder of Wal-Mart.

A decision to name the Paige Sports Arena after their 22-year-old daughter – who never attended the school – drew criticism from fans, students and alumni.

On the Net:

BOSTON (AP) – Trot Nixon couldn’t wait to see the postseason run of the Red Sox on the big screen.

The Boston outfielder already knew the ending would be great. But what he was really looking forward to was watching the Red Sox fall apart against the New York Yankees in the first three games of the American League championship series.

“The best way to let it sink in is to watch the first three games and sit back and let the roller-coaster ride take you,” Nixon said Monday night at the premiere of the team’s “World Series” DVD. “That allows it to sink in even more.”

Major League Baseball hosted a gala party in the middle of Boston’s theater district for the release of the DVD. The theater was fitted with a movie screen to allow 3,700 people to watch the team overcome an 86-year title drought.

Another video, produced by the Red Sox and called “Faith Rewarded,” will be released next week. It will focus more on the season as a whole.

The 93-minute “World Series” DVD recaps the team’s first-round sweep of the Anaheim Angels and the unprecedented comeback against the Yankees in the ALCS. New York won the first three games before the Red Sox won four straight. It finished with Boston’s four-game sweep of the St. Louis Cardinals in the World Series.

MUNICH, Germany (AP) – Prosecutors have dropped an investigation of Oasis singer Liam Gallagher over a 2002 brawl at a Munich hotel in exchange for a $65,200 fine, a spokesman said Monday.

The Dec. 1, 2002, fight at the hotel left Gallagher with several broken teeth, and police said at the time that he had kicked an officer outside the hotel’s nightclub.

Anton Winkler, a spokesman for Munich prosecutors, said contradictory statements by those involved left authorities unable to clearly establish who started the brawl.

“We have closed the investigation against the payment” of $65,200, he said. Gallagher, 32, had been under investigation on suspicion of bodily harm.

Gallagher and four other members of Oasis and the British band’s entourage were detained briefly for questioning following the fight with other patrons at the hotel disco. On their Web site, the band called the fight “an unprovoked attack” on them.

Hotel security staff separated the two sides and asked them to leave the nightclub, calling police when the fight resumed outside the entrance.

HANOI, Vietnam (AP ) – French rocker Johnny Hallyday and his wife, Laeticia, arrived in the Vietnamese capital to meet a baby girl they plan to adopt, said a friend traveling with the couple.

Hallyday and his wife arrived in Hanoi Friday to meet 3-month-old Jade, who lives in Phu Tho province, some 40 miles northwest of Hanoi, said family friend Cecile Angeli.

The couple have declined comment, saying they want to keep the adoption private, she said.

Hallyday and his wife were waiting for the baby’s passport and other paperwork to be finished before they can pick her up, Angeli said.

“They don’t know yet when they can see her,” she said. “They just have one photo.”

Hallyday – best known as “Johnny” – turned 61 this year, but remains an idol to young and old in France. He is credited with bringing rock ‘n’ roll to France in 1959, and is best known for crooning French versions of songs such as “Let’s Twist Again” and “Tutti Frutti.”

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