Mel Gibson reaches plea deal in domestic abuse case

Reuters News
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Posted: Mar 21, 2011 1:50 PM
Mel Gibson reaches plea deal in domestic abuse case

By Bob Tourtellotte

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Mel Gibson is expected to plead no contest to a charge of battery and avoid jail time for the domestic abuse claim made by his ex-girlfriend, a source close to the case told Reuters on Wednesday.

Celebrity news website TMZ.com, citing unidentified people connected to the Los Angeles District Attorney, reported that the "Braveheart" actor and director will appear in court on Friday to enter his plea, which is equivalent to guilty.

He made the deal to avoid a prolonged court battle that would be a strain on his family, TMZ and others said.

A spokeswoman for the Los Angeles District Attorney's office declined to comment on the TMZ report, but Gibson's attorney, Blair Berk, issued a statement saying he had asked her to approach officials with a deal to end the matter.

"I know from almost 20 years as a criminal defense lawyer that sometimes justice can come for a client at too high a personal price," Berk said. "That is particularly so for Mel, whose right to due process can only be exercised in this case with an enormous media circus attached."

"Mel's priority throughout all of this has been that the best interests of his young daughter Lucia and the rest of his children be put first in any decisions made," Berk said in her statement. "It is with only that in mind that he asked me to approach the District Attorney with a proposal that would bring all of this to an immediate end."

Gibson and ex-girlfriend Oksana Grigorieva, who is the mother of his infant daughter Lucia, have been at odds for well over a year, leading them to end their affair in April, 2010. Since then, they have waged a bitter custody battle over Lucia and made claims and counterclaims against each other.

Grigorieva has alleged that Gibson punched her and knocked out her teeth during an argument in January, 2010. Last summer, audiotapes of a man widely believed to be Gibson were posted on celebrity website Radaronline.com, and on them, the man rants at Grigorieva making racial slurs and sexist comments.

For his part, Gibson has claimed that Grigorieva used the audiotapes to try to extort a better settlement from him over their breakup -- a deal that has been reported to be valued as high as $20 million.

In February this year, Los Angeles County Sheriffs finished their investigation into the claims and gave the case to prosecutors. No charges have been filed against either party.

But the tapes damaged Gibson's Hollywood career, which already had suffered a major setback following anti-Semitic remarks he made during a drunk driving arrest in 2006.

Following the release of the audiotapes on Radaronline, Gibson's long-time agent dropped him. The opening of a movie he made, "The Beaver," was delayed and the cast of another film in which he was scheduled to appear, refused to work with him.

(Editing by Philip Barbara)