Judge delays jail sentence in Lohan theft case

LOS ANGELES Thu Mar 10, 2011 4:25pm EST

1 of 4. Actress Lindsay Lohan arrives at Airport Courthouse in Los Angeles March 10, 2011. Lohan is accused of walking out of a Los Angeles jewelry store without paying for a gold designer necklace in January -- just three weeks after ending her fifth stint in drug and alcohol rehab in three years.

Credit: Reuters/Mario Anzuoni

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LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - A judge on Thursday gave troubled actress Lindsay Lohan two more weeks to plead guilty to a charge she stole a $2,500 necklace in January, delaying any decision to return the Hollywood starlet to jail.

Lohan, 24, pleaded not guilty to theft of the necklace in early February, and a California judge gave her until Thursday to reach a deal in which she would plead guilty or no contest to the charge, which is the equivalent of guilty. But attorneys failed to strike a bargain, leading to Thursday's ruling.

Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Keith Schwartz set a court date of March 25 to give Lohan's attorney and prosecutors more time. If they still cannot reach a deal, a preliminary hearing will start on April 22 in front of a different judge.

Schwartz previously warned Lohan that if she pleaded guilty or no contest, she would face jail time, and on Thursday, he again cautioned her.

"The only reason you will appear in front of me again ... is to plead guilty or no contest to the charge and accept the parameters of the court's offer," the judge said.

If she does not reach a plea, the case continues to the April hearing where the new judge will decide if enough evidence exists to bring the "Mean Girls" actress to trial.

The new judge also will decide if Lohan's alleged theft violated terms of her probation on a 2007 drunk driving and drug conviction, which by itself could mean Lohan's return to jail for a fourth time since her initial conviction.

Lohan entered the courthouse in a tan sweater dress and black leggings, a contrast to more recent outfits that came under scrutiny for being possibly too revealing.

Her clothes and manner in court have been closely watched since an appearance last year at which she painted her fingernails with an expletive.

The actress's struggles with alcohol and drug abuse, and her legal troubles have caused her career to spiral downward in recent years. She was once seen as one of Hollywood's brightest up-and-coming stars, thanks to her performances in the 2003 film "Freaky Friday" and the following year's "Mean Girls."

But her latest trip to rehab lost her the lead role in a movie about 1970s porn star Linda Lovelace, and in the last three years she has more often been in the lenses of the paparazzi than in front of a movie camera.

Lohan said in a television interview with the celebrity show "Extra" this month that she would like to reclaim her life and career. "I miss being on set," she said.

(Reporting by Bob Tourtellotte and Alex Dobuzinskis; Editing by Xavier Briand)

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