By Bob Tourtellotte
LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - The criminal cases of Hollywood star Mel Gibson and his former girlfriend ended on Friday when a judge sentenced him to probation for hitting her and prosecutors declined to charge her with blackmail.
Gibson, 55, pleaded no contest to a charge of domestic violence against Oksana Grigorieva, the mother of his baby daughter. He received three years' probation, was ordered to spend one year in counseling, perform 16 hours of community service and pay fines and court costs.
The stoic Gibson, dressed in a dark suit and open-collared shirt during a brief proceeding in a Los Angeles courtroom, received no jail time as part of his plea, which is the equivalent of admitting guilt under California law.
"I have a good grasp of everything my attorney has discussed with me," Gibson told the judge of his plea.
He struck a deal with prosecutors to dim the media spotlight on him and his family after a year of harsh claims and counterclaims between him and Grigorieva.
"It is in the best interest of his children," his attorney, Blair Berk, said in court of the actor's decision.
Gibson, whose career includes the smash hit "Lethal Weapon" movies and Academy Award winner "Braveheart," has waged a bitter custody battle for almost a year with Grigorieva over their infant daughter, Lucia.
Grigorieva claimed Gibson punched her and broke her tooth during a heated argument on January 6, 2010. The actor admitted he slapped her with an open hand, but said he was concerned for the safety of Lucia because Grigorieva was shaking her erratically at the time.
Gibson has alleged Grigorieva tried to extort money from him -- beyond a reported $20 million settlement that resulted from their breakup -- by using a series of audiotapes of a man hurling insults and a racial slurs at her over the telephone.
The tapes, posted last year on celebrity website Radaronline.com and widely believed to be of Gibson, damaged his career. His longtime manager left him, a movie's release was delayed and actors refused to work with him.
But prosecutors declined on Friday to file charges against Grigorieva, saying "there is insufficient evidence to prove beyond a reasonable doubt" that Grigorieva committed a crime.
In a statement issued by her attorneys to Radaronline.com, Grigorieva said Gibson's plea was made "with complete fairness to all involved." She did not appear in court, but a prosecutor said the plea was made with her knowledge.
(Reporting by Bob Tourtellotte; Editing by Peter Cooney)