So much for hard time for the director of Die Hard.
A federal appellate court has vacated the four-month prison sentence handed to John McTiernan after the filmmaker pleaded guilty to lying to federal investigators in connection with the Anthony Pellicano wiretapping case.
Per the decision issued Tuesday by the 9th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals, McTiernan may also be able to withdraw his guilty plea.
The 57-year-old Hollywood fixture, whose directorial credits also include The Hunt for Red October and Predator, filed a motion in September 2007 stating that he had received inadequate legal counsel at the time he decided to cut a deal and that a recording of him talking with Pellicano about an information-gathering job was illegally seized by the FBI.
"He should never have been charged with a criminal offense," attorney Milton Grimes said last year.
U.S. District Court Judge Dale Fischer disagreed and sentenced McTiernan to four months behind bars. But today's ruling gives the director another script to work with.
Judge Roger J. Miner wrote in the appellate panel's decision that different legal advice could have indeed led another person in McTiernan's place to not plead guilty to the federal charge he faced.
McTiernan has remained free on bail pending the result of his appeal. Another evidentiary hearing in front of Fischer will determine how the case proceeds.
UPDATE (Feb. 24, 2009 at 4:49 p.m. PT): Fischer allowed McTiernan to withdraw his guilty plea and ordered the director's $100,000 fine to be refunded. A hearing has been set for March 23 for further discussion.
Prosecutors said a new indictment will be coming down the pipeline soon.