Aug. 3, 2010— -- Charlie Sheen will return to the set of his hit television sitcom today, a day after pleading guilty to assaulting his wife. But some observers are questioning whether Sheen should have been allowed to walk out of court a free man.
Former police officer Valerie McFarland, who took the 911 call placed from Sheen's Aspen home last year, said she thinks he may have gotten off easy after allegedly pulling a knife on wife Brooke Mueller.
"I wish that the judge could have seen what Mrs. Sheen looked like that Christmas Day," McFarland said, "and felt the terror that I believe she must have experienced."
Robin Sax, former Los Angeles County deputy district attorney, agreed, saying that the emphasis of Sheen's day in court was on celebrity and not necessarily justice.
"It's just not even within the realm of the most lenient of lenient sentences," she told "Good Morning America" today.
Sheen's day in court looked almost like a red-carpet appearance: He chewed gum and blew kisses to fans before going inside. He walked out a free man a short time later, sentenced to 30 days of probation, 36 hours of anger management classes and 30 days at a Malibu rehabilitation center that has counted Lindsay Lohan and Robert Downey Jr. among its patrons.
If Sheen gets credit for time already served at the drug and alcohol treatment center, he may not have to stay there at all.
"I'm going to Disneyland," the "Two and a Half Men" star said as he left the courthouse.
His guilty plea to the misdemeanor assault charge came in exchange for the withdrawal of two other charges, including a felony.
Noted celebrity criminal defense attorney Mark Geragos said Sheen's sentence wasn't light at all, considering that Mueller, the prosecution's would-be star witness, had shown no interest in cooperating.
The plea deal, he said, proved that prosecutors "had a devil a time making their case."
"I think the prosecutor got lucky that he got a plea at all," he said. "It's not necessarily lenient."
Since his arrest last year, Sheen, TV's highest paid actor, has worked to reconcile with Mueller, rebuild their family -- they have one-year-old twin sons, Bob and Max -- and repair his public image. The two were married in 2008.
Last month, Sheen signed on for two more years of his successful sitcom, putting an end to a long salary dispute and rumors that he wanted out to focus more on film.
Harrowing 911 Call
Sheen had taken time off from his hit television show voluntarily to enter a rehab facility -- for the third time in his career -- "as a preventative measure," according to his rep Stan Rosenfield.
At the same time, Mueller checked into a separate rehab center, but left a few days later after her counselors agreed she was fit to live at home as long as she was monitored.
Mueller was charged with a DUI in 1996 and cocaine possession in 2001.
In an audio recording of a 911 call on Dec. 25, a woman who identifies herself as Mueller tells the dispatcher that her husband threatened her with a knife and says, "I thought I was going to die for one hour."
"My husband had me with a knife," she tells the 911 operator. " I was scared for my life and he threatened me." She described the knife as a "switchblade."
When asked her husband's name, she waits before saying "It's Charlie Sheen," and starts crying.
The actor was arrested and spent the better part of Christmas Day in jail. After posting an $8,500 bond, Sheen was released from jail that evening.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.