Boy George sentenced to 15 months in jail

LONDON (Reuters) - Former Culture Club frontman Boy George was sentenced on Friday to 15 months in jail after being found guilty last month of falsely imprisoning a Norwegian male escort.

Tried under his real name George O’Dowd, the 47-year-old Briton denied the charge of false imprisonment at his London flat in April, 2007. After his conviction on December 5, judge David Radford had warned him that he faced a prison term.

But the length of the sentence was a surprise to lawyers who had expected a term of around three months, or even a suspended sentence.

Shocked family members and friends in a packed courtroom at Snaresbrook Crown Court in east London gasped and broke down in tears after the sentence was read. O’Dowd, his head shaved and wearing a black coat and sweater, stared ahead impassively.

“This offence is so serious that only an immediate sentence of imprisonment can be justified for it,” Radford said.

He said the escort, Audun Carlsen, was “shocked, degraded and traumatized” at being detained and attacked by O’Dowd and an unidentified companion, and said a guilty plea “would have been true evidence of remorse and saved your victim from ... cross-examination.”

The singer had told police he invited Carlsen back to his home after a cocaine-fueled pornographic photo shoot in January, 2007, because he suspected the Norwegian of stealing pictures from his computer.

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During the two-week trial, Carlsen countered that the singer had handcuffed him and beaten him with a chain because he was angry he had refused to sleep with him when they first met.

O’Dowd did not give evidence during the trial, but before sentencing his lawyer Adrian Waterman urged leniency, saying O’Dowd had acted under the influence of illegal drugs, was recovering from his addiction and was a “kind and generous man.”

O’Dowd and Carlsen behaved like “two drug-crazed idiots,” he said, adding: “He (O’Dowd) is on the way back from that nether world. I am emboldened to say that there is enormous hope.”

Waterman told the judge that O’Dowd may not be allowed to perform again in the United States and Japan because of his conviction, which carried a “truly enormous” financial cost.

The court had heard Carlsen describe how he sustained injuries during their meeting in April, 2007, from being beaten and handcuffed. O’Dowd’s lawyer said the injuries were consistent with bondage gear the Norwegian had worn.

Singer Boy George, whose real name is George O'Dowd, arrives for his sentencing at Snaresbrook Crown Court in east London January 16, 2009. O'Dowd was found guilty in December 2008 of falsely imprisoning a Norwegian male escort by handcuffing him to a wall. REUTERS/Stephen Hird

The singer shot to fame in the 1980s, thanks to a distinctive voice and androgynous image, and Culture Club topped the charts with hits like “Karma Chameleon” and “Do You Really Want to Hurt Me?”

But he has struggled with drug problems, and in 2006 was sentenced to do community service in New York after admitting to falsely reporting a burglary. Police responding to his call found 13 bags of cocaine in his apartment.

His lawyers said it was likely that he would actually spend six or seven months behind bars, but declined to say whether O’Dowd was planning to launch an appeal.

(Editing by Paul Casciato)

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