BY: Solomon Banda
ASPEN, Colo. – Charlie Sheen’s plea deal with prosecutors allowed him to avoid jail time for a Christmas Day assault on his wife and also won’t require him to do public service around the tony resort town of Aspen.
The ‘Two and a Half Men’ actor pleaded guilty Monday to misdemeanor third-degree assault in exchange for prosecutors dropping two other more serious charges, including a felony charge of menacing. He was sentenced to 30 days in a rehabilitation center, 30 days of probation and 36 hours of anger management.
Sheen has 30 days to make arrangements to serve his sentence at Promises Treatment Center in California, though whether he will actually have to report there remains in question.
Sheen’s attorney, Yale Galanter, said the actor has already spent 93 days at Promises this year and the center could choose to credit that time toward his sentence.
“Credit for time served is absolutely on the table,” Galanter said. “How much credit he gets is up to Promises.”
The charges against the actor stemmed from a Christmas Day 2009 dispute with his wife. Brooke Mueller Sheen told police that the actor threatened to kill her and brandished a knife after she told him she wanted a divorce.
Charlie Sheen said they argued but he denied threatening her, and he told police that he was upset by the divorce threat. Sheen previously went through a bitter divorce and custody battle with his ex-wife Denise Richards.
Within a week of Sheen’s arrest, he and Mueller Sheen both said they wanted to reconcile. In February, they hugged in an Aspen courtroom after a judge modified a restraining order that kept them from contacting each other.
Since the incident, both have completed alcohol rehab programs, and Galanter has said they’ve been sober for months.
A previous plea agreement reached in June called for Sheen to plead guilty to the same charge and serve his time at the Pitkin County jail in work release program, where Sheen would be released during the day to work at a theater company in Aspen.
That deal fell apart over whether Sheen could participate in the work release program or serve in a more restrictive useful public service program, where Sheen would be required to abide by jail rules while out in the community.
Sheen’s plea agreement on Monday called for Colorado prosecutors to drop a felony menacing charge and a criminal mischief charge in exchange for pleading guilty to a count of misdemeanor assault.
Galanter, who also represented Mueller Sheen, said she had wanted the charges dropped and approved of the plea deal.
District Attorney Martin Beeson said Sheen has no criminal record in Colorado and allowing him to avoid jail time was not unusual. He also said that the plea carries several long-term consequences that include Sheen not being able to possess firearms.
Asked by 9th Judicial District Judge James Boyd why he was pleading guilty, Sheen replied in court: “Because I’m guilty, your honor.”
In handing down the sentence, Boyd noted that domestic violence happens behind closed doors and that the details in both versions of the events can vary. Boyd said that allowing Sheen to focus on what happened and why it happened “is the best opportunity for the community to be safe.”
Boyd gave Sheen credit for time spent in anger management classes. Richard Cummins, another Sheen attorney, said Sheen already completed 36 hours of anger management classes in California, though Boyd left it up to the 9th Judicial District probation department to determine whether those can be applied to his Colorado case.
“I’m very grateful to the court and to the people of Pitkin County,” Sheen said in a statement after the hearing. “I look forward to complying with the court’s decision, getting on with my life and putting this behind me.”
It was not the first run-in with the law for Sheen, the star of films such as “Platoon,” “Wall Street” and “Hot Shots!”
In December 1996, he was charged with attacking a girlfriend at his Southern California home. He later pleaded no contest and was placed on two years of probation. Allred also represented the victim in that case.
In 1998, his father, actor Martin Sheen, turned him in for violating his parole after a cocaine overdose sent him to the hospital. He was ordered to undergo a rehabilitation program.
Gloria Allred, a Los Angeles attorney representing one of the officers who investigated the case but has since left the department, said after Monday’s hearing that an appropriate sentence would have been jail time.
“It was a serious real life dangerous situation and should carry serious real life consequences … rather than the extremely light sentence that he received today,” she said.
Denver defense attorney Dan Recht, a former president of the Colorado Criminal Defense Bar, said prosecutors dropping a felony charge in similar cases or a defendant being sentenced to rehabilitation is not unusual.
But he added that domestic violence offenders in nearly all cases are required to attend counseling over a period of nearly nine months, with probation lasting at least a year to allow the court to monitor the counseling.
“Virtually every other case I’ve seen requires everybody to do the 36 weeks of domestic violence counseling,” Recht said.
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