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Bruno Mars gets probation in Vegas cocaine case

    Bruno Mars listens as his defense attorney Blair Burke talks about the terms of his plea deal in district court, Wednesday, Feb. 16, 2011 in Las Vegas. Mars pled guilty to cocaine possession as part of a deal with Las Vegas prosecutors that could result in the felony conviction being erased next year. (AP Photo/Julie Jacobson)

LAS VEGAS — Bruno Mars had two firsts this week. One was winning a Grammy. The other came Wednesday when the 25-year-old singer-songwriter pleaded guilty to cocaine possession.

Unlike the award for his hit, "Just The Way You Are," his brush with the law in Las Vegas may not last forever.

Mars will avoid prison and will have no conviction on his record if he stays out of trouble for a year and meets other conditions of his plea deal.

Clark County District Judge Jessie Walsh made sure Mars understood that he could face up to four years in state prison if he violates the terms of the agreement.

"You understand the penalty range?" she asked.

"Four years," Mars replied, standing in a dark suit with his hands at his sides.

The judge gave Mars, whose real name is Peter Gene Hernandez, probation, a $2,000 fine, 200 hours of community service at a nonprofit organization and eight hours with a drug counselor in Los Angeles.

Walsh set a Jan. 18 date for Mars to return to court.

His Las Vegas lawyer, Richard Schonfeld, told the judge that Mars intends to meet the requirements.

Mars, who performed Sunday at the Grammys and took home the award for best male pop vocal performance for his song, declined to comment in the court hallway.

He 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.

Mars was born and raised in Hawaii and graduated from Roosevelt High School. He began his career at age 4 as an Elvis impersonator in Waikiki and moved to Los Angeles in 2002.

His label, Elektra, announced Tuesday that Mars would headline with recording artist Janelle Monae on a North American tour dubbed "Hooligans in Wondaland."



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