Apparently, it is possible for a celebrity to escape jail time in connection with a traffic violation and not cause a national uproar. At least it's possible outside the U.S.
A British judge has sentenced George Michael to perform 100 hours of community service over the next 12 months and banned him from driving for the next two years after the pop star pleaded no contest to a charge of being unfit to drive. The singer was also ordered to pay a fine of $4,622.
However, 43-year-old entertainer, who was found slumped at the wheel of his car in a North London intersection last October with a "cocktail of drugs" in his system, will not, serve any time behind bars.
"I was ashamed I had done something really wrong in putting other people at risk," he said during the hearing.
His shame wasn't limited to his own wrongdoing, though. Outside the courtroom, a smiling Michael also waved a finger at the media, whom he claimed had unfairly focused on the supposed contents of his medicine cabinet.
While the former Wham! frontman tested positive for cannabis and the club drug GHB, also known as liquid ecstasy, he maintained that his impromptu parking job was the result of "tiredness and prescribed drugs," not any illegal substances. His lawyer, Michael Grieve, last month did not contest that the drugs were found in his client's system, but did argue that it was the perfectly legal prescribed sleeping pills, not the illegal meds, that caused Michael's poor motoring.
Brent Magistrates Court Judge Katherine Marshall appeared to concur, with Michael's sentence more closely aligning with punishment typical of an unfit driving charge, rather than a drug-related one.
"The media coverage of this case has been farcical," Michael said outside the courthouse. "In reality I have been sentenced today on the basis of unfit driving through tiredness and prescription medicines, which I fully accept responsibility for."
The "Faith" singer was arrested in London Oct. 1 after concerned, and no doubt annoyed, drivers spotted the '80s icon virtually asleep at the wheel of his car, blocking a busy roadway. Michael arrived at the spot after allegedly weaving in and out of traffic at a speed of between five and 10 miles per hour.
Passing drivers attempted to rouse the slumped over star, but were unable to do so and phoned the cops, who ensured Michael was checked out at a nearby hospital before placing him under arrest.
Last month, the singer on the comeback trail pleaded no contest and faced up to six months behind bars.
As it is, with the threat of jail time a thing of the past, Michael is looking forward to his moving past the incident and refocusing on his career. The singer will play two gigs at London's newly-opened Wembley Stadium this weekend—provided he can get a ride to the venue.
"I am glad to put this behind me," he said outside the court, "and am now off to do the biggest show of my life."