POSTED: 1:30 a.m. HST, Feb 17, 2011
LAS VEGAS » Bruno Mars pleaded guilty to cocaine possession yesterday , three days after winning his first Grammy award, in a deal that avoids prison and could erase his felony conviction next year.
"Guilty, your honor," the 25-year-old singer-songwriter said softly, standing in court in a dark suit with his hands at his sides.
Clark County District Judge Jessie Walsh sentenced Mars, whose real name is Peter Gene Hernandez, to probation, a $2,000 fine, 200 hours of community service at a nonprofit organization and eight hours with a drug counselor in Los Angeles.
Mars, who performed Sunday at the Grammys and took home the award for best male pop vocal performance for his hit, "Just the Way You Are," declined to comment in the court hallway.
He and his lawyers were flanked by Las Vegas police and court marshals as they exited the Clark County Regional Justice Center.
Under terms of the plea agreement, Mars' conviction can be erased if he meets the terms of the deal and stays out of trouble for a year. The judge set a Jan. 18 date for him to return to court.
Mars acknowledged having 2.6 grams of cocaine when he was arrested in a bathroom early Sept. 19 after a nightclub performance at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas. Police say he told the arresting officer he never used drugs before.
Mars' Los Angeles lawyer, Blair Berk, has said the singer appreciates the chance he was getting as a first-time offender to have the felony charge dismissed.
The judge made sure Mars understood that he could face probation or up to four years in state prison if he violates the terms of his probation.
"You understand the penalty range?" she asked.
"Four years," Mars replied.
The former child entertainer from Hawaii began his career at age 4 as an Elvis impersonator. He moved to Los Angeles in 2002.