LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Prosecutors charged actor Mel Gibson on Friday with one count of battery for hitting his former girlfriend Oksana Grigorieva in January 2010, according to court documents.
Gibson, 55, is widely expected to plead no contest to the charge, which is the equivalent of a guilty plea, in a Los Angeles court on Friday.
The actor and Oscar-winning director of "Braveheart" has waged a custody battle with Grigorieva over their infant daughter, Lucia, which has included claims and counterclaims that have played out in the public spotlight.
Grigorieva has claimed Gibson punched her during a heated argument on January 6, 2010, and Gibson has admitted in a sworn declaration he slapped her with an open hand.
But Gibson has said he was concerned for the safety of Lucia, whom Grigorieva was holding in her arms. He has said he feared that because of his ex-girlfriend's erratic movements, the infant could suffer "shaken baby syndrome."
For his part, Gibson has claimed Grigorieva was trying to extort money from him in a settlement of their breakup by using a series of audiotapes of a man ranting at her, hurling insults and a racial slurs over the telephone.
The audiotapes, which were posted on celebrity website Radaronline.com last year and widely believed to be of Gibson, have damaged his career.
Grigorieva, through attorneys, has denied Gibson's claims, but officials have investigated the accusations against her as well as those against Gibson.
On Wednesday, a source close to the situation said Gibson would plead no contest to the misdemeanor count of battery in order to avoid seeing the matter play out in a public courtroom, which could trouble his family.
His attorney, Blair Berk, issued a statement saying: "Sometimes justice can come for a client at too high a personal price. That is particularly so for Mel, whose right to due process can only be exercised in this case with an enormous media circus attached."
(Reporting by Bob Tourtellotte; Editing by Peter Cooney)