Ex-HBO CEO being put on informal probation
Former HBO topper Chris Albrecht pleaded no contest to a charge of battery in Las Vegas on Friday, receiving a six-month suspended sentence and paying a $1,000 fine.He also is being put on a kind of informal probation, which attorney David Chesnoff described as not requiring him to report to a probation officer but simply to “stay out of trouble for a year.” On May 8, 2008, Albrecht or his attorneywould need to appear in court and, barring any further legal trouble, the judge would officially close the book on the case. “It’s over and it’s done and Chris can move on,” Chesnoff said. Albrecht was charged with one count of battery after an incident outside the MGM Grand early in the morning on May 5 in which he allegedly choked his girlfriend. Albrecht did not personally appear in court Friday. Chesnoff, a Las Vegas-based attorney who met Albrecht for the first time when he was retained the night of the incident, appeared on his behalf. A no contest plea means that the defendant is essentially — but not technically — admitting guilt; it prohibits the admission from being invoked in other legal proceedings. The suspended sentence could be reinstated, experts said, only if Albrecht was to become involved in future legal troubles. Albrecht’s girlfriend, Karla Jensen, did not press charges or cooperate in the investigation, resulting in the relatively quick resolution. On Friday, Jensen released a statement standing in solidarity with Albrecht, notably saying that she, too, was culpable in the incident. “Chris and I made a mistake last weekend,” she wrote. “It was an incident fueled by both of us drinking too much alcohol, but I was not injured and I know he cares about me. Our argument that evening got out of hand, but I still love him and I forgive him.” She continued, “Chris and I are both committed to our sobriety and are looking forward to putting this behind us and moving on with our lives together.” Jensen’s comments likely will provide fuel to those, like Bernard Brillstein and Ari Emanuel, who have argued that Time Warner’s decision to fire Albrecht was hasty and unfair. Settlement ends the legal woes for Albrecht, though the process of rehabbing his image in Hollywood could take much longer. On Friday Albrecht also released a statement, saying, “My behavior was clearly inappropriate and, in this spirit, I have accepted the judgment of the authorities in Las Vegas.” He added that he “apologized to Karla, and I would like to express my appreciation for the fair and professional way I was treated by the Las Vegas police. Karla and I now look forward to putting this behind us and getting on with our lives.” Albrecht was concerned immediately about the potential damage to his image; in addition to Chesnoff, he brought on a rare tag team of two crisis-PR vets, Allan Mayer of 42 West and Steve Rubenstein of Rubenstein Communications, to handle the crisis. Albrecht is expected to spend a few weeks — but not much more than that — before weighing his options on a return to the entertainment world. He reportedly has been attending AA meetings in Los Angeles this week. Friday’s proceedings also led to the release of a police report that sheds light on the incident that cost Albrecht his job. The exec had “slurred speech” and “a strong odor of alcohol” when a Las Vegas police officer arrested him shortly after 3 a.m. Sunday. Albrecht also told the officer that his girlfriend had “pissed me off.” The report, which was filed about 2:30 Sunday afternoon, also confirms the odd bit that had earlier surfaced that Albrecht had told the officer, apparently unsolicited, that he was the CEO of HBO. According to the report, the officer found Albrecht “grabbing a white female by the throat using two hands” and dragging the woman, his girlfriend, toward the hotel. Red marks were found on Jensen’s neck. Time Warner forced Albrecht to resign from HBO on Wednesday after mounting pressure and coverage of Albrecht’s arrest, and the revelation that he had been involved in a 1991 altercation with a subordinate and former girlfriend. Chesnoff said he didn’t believe the revelation of that incident had any bearing on the district attorney’s actions.