Sean Penn pleads no contest to vandalism

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LOS ANGELES (AP) — Sean Penn pleaded no contest to vandalism on Wednesday, effectively ending a case in which the Oscar-winning actor was videotaped kicking a celebrity photographer.

Penn was not present in court and entered the plea through his attorney. He was sentenced to three years of informal probation and ordered to perform 300 hours of community service, said city attorney’s spokesman Frank Mateljan.

Mateljan says those hours can be completed through Penn’s earthquake-relief efforts in Haiti.

He was also ordered to undergo 36 hours of anger management counseling and stay 100 yards away from the photographer.

Penn was charged in February with misdemeanor battery and vandalism for the October dustup and faced up to 18 months in jail if convicted.

“Prolonging this matter in the court system would not have been in Mr. Penn’s best interests and would have distracted from his charitable commitments, specifically his work in Haiti,” Penn’s attorney Richard Hirsch said. “Accordingly he has decided to accept the terms and move on.”

If he completes the terms of his sentence, Penn will be allowed to reduce the charge to disturbing the peace.

Mateljan said a restitution hearing for the photographer will be held July 8. The photographer, Jordan Dawes, has sued Penn in civil court. That case remains active.

Penn, 49, has won two best actor Oscars for roles in “Mystic River” and “Milk.” He has made a major humanitarian push in Haiti since the country was devastated by an earthquake in January, co-founding the Jenkins-Penn Haiti Relief Organization.

The group provide medical care, water filters and food and has opened a health clinic for mothers and victims of a growing sexual assault epidemic.

Until the recent case, the actor has remained out of trouble after several run-ins with photographers and the law in the 1980s.