LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Hollywood actor and director Mel Gibson pleaded no contest on Friday to hitting his ex-girlfriend during a heated argument and was sentenced to three years' probation and violence counseling.
Gibson, 55, received no jail time as part of his plea, which is the equivalent of admitting guilt under California law. He sat through the court proceeding in a dark suit and open-collared shirt, and answered the judge directly when asked if he understood his sentencing.
The actor, who was formally charged with one count of domestic battery, must also spend one year in domestic violence counseling, perform 16 hours of community service and pay fines and other court costs.
Gibson, whose career includes the hit "Lethal Weapon" movies and Academy Award winner "Braveheart," has waged a bitter custody battle for almost a year with Oksana Grigorieva over their infant daughter, Lucia, that has included claims and counterclaims of wrongdoing by both parties.
Grigorieva has said Gibson punched her during a heated argument on January 6, 2010. The actor has admitted in a sworn declaration that he slapped her with an open hand, but has said he was concerned for the safety of Lucia because Grigorieva was shaking her erratically at the time.
Gibson has claimed Grigorieva tried to extort money from him beyond a reported $20 million settlement that resulted from their breakup by using a series of audiotapes of a man hurling insults and a racial slurs over the telephone.
The audiotapes, which were posted on celebrity website Radaronline.com last year and widely believed to be of Gibson, have damaged his career.
Grigorieva has denied Gibson's claims, but law enforcement officials investigated the accusations against her, as well as those against Gibson, resulting in Friday's plea deal.
Celebrity website TMZ.com reported that the Los Angeles district attorney would not file an extortion charge against Grigorieva, but that could not be immediately confirmed.
In a statement issued by her attorneys to Radaronline.com, Grigorieva said Gibson's plea deal was made "with complete fairness to all involved." She did not appear in court, but a prosecutor said the plea was made with her knowledge.