LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Lindsay Lohan was ordered to stand trial in June for theft but a judge on Friday reduced the charge to a simple misdemeanor, sharply reducing the chances of the actress getting a lengthy jail sentence if convicted.
Los Angeles Superior Court judge Stephanie Sautner declined to dismiss the case after a preliminary hearing, and set a June 3 trial date.
“I am going to give her an opportunity. I’m going to reduce this case...to a misdemeanor,” Sautner said.
Lohan, 24, has pleaded not guilty to walking out of a Los Angeles jewelry store in January without paying for a $2,500 gold necklace. She was originally charged with a more serious count of felony grand theft and had faced a prison term of up to three years if convicted.
Lohan’s attorney on Friday challenged the true value of the necklace, and police officers testified that aides of the actress had called them to return the item.
“There is a lot of hoopla surrounding Ms. Lohan, but at the end of the day relatively speaking, this is not particularly serious as grand thefts go,” said Lohan’s lawyer Shawn Chapman Holley. “This is a necklace that was purchased for $850 that was returned 10 days later.”
Judge Sautner said however that the evidence she had heard in Friday’s hearing suggested that Lohan meant to steal the necklace.
“I see the intent here and I see the level of brazenness with ‘let me see what I can get away with,’” Sautner said.
Sautner also said that Lohan has been punished a lot for her 2007 drunken driving conviction, but that her behavior since then has been questionable.
Lohan has been in and out of rehab, jail and courtrooms since 2007.
“She thumbs her nose at the court, she walks into court with F you on her fingernails. I don’t even know what that means,” Sautner said, referring to an appearance last year by the “Mean Girls” actress.
In what was seen as a huge legal gamble, Lohan in March rejected a deal offered by prosecutors that would have put her behind bars for three to six months if she pleaded guilty to felony grand theft.
Once considered among the most promising young actresses in Hollywood with films like “Freaky Friday” and “Bobby”, Lohan’s career has come to a virtual halt.
But earlier this week she secured a role in an upcoming movie about New York mobster John Gotti.
Reporting by Alex Dobuzinskis; Editing by Jill Serjeant