March 11, 2011 — -- If the names Mel Gibson and Oksana Grigorieva were on your radar last summer, then you probably saw the photos, heard the recordings and read the rants.
If you did all that, you might be surprised that today, Gibson plead guilty to a charge of misdemeanor battery against Grigorieva, his ex-girlfriend and the mother of his 1-year-old daughter, and avoided jail time in exchange for 36 months of informal probation, community service, a year of domestic violence counseling and $570 in fines.
Gibson plead guilty today after Los Angeles prosecutors charged him with misdemeanor battery stemming from a January 2010 fight he had with Grigorieva. Prosecutors also said today that they will not charge Grigorieva with extortion, citing insufficient evidence. (Gibson accused Grigorieva of extortion after multiple recordings purportedly of him yelling at her leaked online.)
Grigorieva accused Gibson of egregious acts: hitting her and their daughter, whom she was holding in her arms, punching her in the mouth and breaking her teeth, and verbally berating her during numerous phone calls.
Did he be get off easy? Not necessarily, according to legal experts. It's normal for a defendant to receive a milder punishment with a plea deal than with a trial, and it makes sense that Gibson wanted to avoid going to trial.
"Given her testimony and his, given that he also admitted in a family law filing that he did hit her though he claimed it was for the protection of the baby, with all of that, at the minimum, he would be convicted for misdemeanor battery and at the maximum, felony battery," said family law attorney Gloria Allred. "What would be the point in undergoing a trial with all of the massive coverage if at the end, he's going to be convicted?"
Another factor that likely led to Gibson's reported decision to not go to trial: He has a movie coming out. "The Beaver" is set to be released in May, and he'd have a hard time promoting it while in the midst of a very public trial.
"He's saying, basically, 'I'm not contesting this, but I want to get on with my life," said family law attorney Debra Opri. "Any attorney who would represent someone like this would say, 'Put this behind you.'"
Because Gibson has not been charged with battery before, avoiding jail time in exchange for probation and anger management sessions is par for the course.
"He doesn't have a prior battery charge; he had his ex-wife come out and say that he was never violent during their 26 years of marriage," Opri said. "If they dismissed the charges, I think he would be getting off easy, but as it is, this seems standard."
In Allred's eyes, though, that doesn't mean the punishment fits the alleged crime.
"I'm really disgusted with the system where the first-time batterers receive probation," she said. "I do think that there's a potential risk of harm and for batterers that have significant anger management issues and express that in criminal conduct, we do need to do more than giving them probation and ordering counseling."