Mel dodges jail in battery plea deal

FILM STAR IN DOCK: No contest to spousal battery charge

Jonathan Gray

A HAGGARD-looking Mel Gibson used lightning legal moves to end a domestic violence case involving a fight with his then-girlfriend.

Within hours, Gibson (55) was charged with spousal battery and pleaded no contest in a deal with prosecutors that kept him out of jail.

In a separate case, prosecutors announced they found insufficient evidence to pursue Gibson's extortion allegations against Oksana Grigorieva, the victim in the battery case and the mother of Gibson's infant daughter.

As part of the plea deal, Gibson will spend three years on probation, undergo a year of domestic violence counselling, and perform 16 hours of community service.

If he complies and does not get into further trouble, he will not have to make another court appearance in the case.

Gibson dressed in a blue suit and blue striped shirt, said little during the brief hearing beyond acknowledging his rights and the terms of the plea deal.

Grigorieva did not attend the proceeding. The developments marked a swift ending to a legal saga that began last summer when Grigorieva, a Russian musician, reported Gibson had hit her during a fight at his Malibu home in January 2010.

By the time she went to police, the pair were locked in a bitter custody battle and the actor-director soon accused her of attempting to extort him during negotiations for custody arrangements involving their daughter.

Months of investigation by deputies followed. Sexist and racist rants by Gibson were leaked to celebrity website, and Grigorieva did interviews with CNN's Larry King and People magazine detailing threats she attributed to Gibson.

The custody battle continues in a Los Angeles court, but the proceeding is closed to the public and the records are sealed.

In the battery case, Gibson entered a plea in which he did not admit guilt. It cannot be used against him if Grigorieva files a lawsuit.

His lawyer Blair Berk said the Oscar winner made the move with the best interests of his children in mind.