Friday, February 25, 2011

Judge warns Lindsay Lohan of possible jail time

Los Angeles (CNN) -- A judge warned actress Lindsay Lohan Wednesday that the only way she can avoid jail on a theft charge is to be acquitted in a trial.

"If you plead in front of me, you are going to jail, period!" Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Keith Schwartz told Lohan during a hearing.

The prosecutor offered Lohan a plea deal Wednesday, but the terms of the offer were not disclosed.

"I get the impression you're not going to accept the DA's offer," Schwartz said.

Lohan lawyer Shawn Chapman Holley previously said her client would welcome a plea deal, but only if it did not involve jail time for the actress.

"Ms. Lohan maintains her innocence, and now that I've seen the police reports, I believe the case is entirely defensible," Holley said after the initial hearing. "Having said that, we will entertain a discussion concerning a plea if it means no jail so that she can move forward with her recovery and her career."

If Lohan is convicted on the felony grand theft charge, her "ability at that time to have more input in the sentence could be lessened," the judge told Lohan Wednesday.

She will appear before Judge Schwartz again March 10, but if a plea deal is not reached by then the case will go to another judge for a preliminary hearing and a possible trial, he said.

Wednesday marked Lohan's eighth court appearance in nine months, events that have spawned an atmosphere outside the court similar to the red carpet arrivals she used to enjoy before her acting career was derailed by her legal problems and stints in rehab.

Her entrance for the February 9 hearing, in which she entered a not guilty plea to the felony grand theft charge, caused a media stir because she was wearing a tight-fitting white knit dress and diamond jewelry that would have been appropriate for a movie premiere.

Her apparel Wednesday was more conservative. Lohan, 24, wore cream-colored slacks and a black top, but she was walking in 5-inch black platform stilettos.

Lohan and her lawyer have new information in hand to help with her decision about a plea deal. The prosecution handed over all of the police reports and a copy of the jewelry store surveillance video that allegedly shows the actress leaving with a $2,500 necklace without paying on January 22.

The felony grand theft charge triggered a charge that she violated her probation for a 2007 drunk driving conviction.

Lohan is free on bond on the probation violation and the grand theft charge while her lawyer and the prosecutor discuss a plea deal, or until a full hearing.

The penalty for a felony grand theft conviction ranges from 16 months to three years in a California state prison. The exact term would be based on the value of the property stolen and the criminal record of the defendant.

Shoplifting offenses are charged as petty theft if the property taken is valued at less than $950. The store owner claims the "one of a kind" necklace is worth $2,500, police said.

The judge could reduce the charge to a misdemeanor, which would carry a prison sentence of no more than one year.

The allegedly stolen necklace was handed over to police just before they were to execute a search warrant to look for the jewelry in Lohan's Venice apartment, police said.

The actress is on supervised probation for a drunken driving conviction. The judge overseeing that case told her in October that he would send her to jail for 180 days if she violated her probation rules before her next court appearance, set for February 25. That court date is now off, with Schwartz taking over Lohan's legal cases.

She left the Betty Ford clinic a month ago after three months in a drug rehabilitation program. The rehab stint persuaded the judge not to send Lohan to jail for failing a drug test.

By Alan Duke, CNN

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