<i> From United Press International </i>

Actor Sean Penn is free on $500 bond after his arrest for allegedly attacking two free-lance journalists with a large rock while his pop-star fiancee, Madonna, watched, police said Monday.

“He went for us like a madman,” reporter Ian Markham-Smith said Sunday. “He just went for us straight off. He went berserk, like a whirlwind.”

Asked by night court commissioner Bill Norris if he understood the misdemeanor assault and battery charges against him, Penn said, “Yeah.”


Penn, 24, wearing blue jeans, worn track shoes and a blue shirt, was taken into custody in his room at the landmark Maxwell House Hotel. He’s in Nashville working on a film called “At Close Range” for Orion Pictures, which released Penn’s “The Falcon and the Snowman” earlier this year.

Arresting officer Thomas Nelson said Penn did not resist, and there was “no problem.”

Laurence Cottrell, 30, and Markham-Smith, 33, who said they were working for the Sun, Rupert Murdoch’s racy British tabloid, told police they were outside the hotel hoping to take a picture of Penn and Madonna together when Penn attacked them.

“We wanted to find out if we could get Sean Penn and Madonna quotes about their forthcoming marriage and if possible get a picture of them together,” said Cottrell of Los Angeles.

“We were sitting in the car outside the Maxwell House Hotel when she went out for a jog,” Cottrell said. “We hadn’t taken a picture, but Penn spotted us and figured out who we were.”

The journalists said they approached the couple when Madonna returned from jogging, but Penn grabbed a rock and threatened the men.

“He said, ‘No pictures--you take my picture and I’ll break your back with this rock.’ He used profanity,” Cottrell said.


“We asked what’s the problem. Then he came after us and threw the rock at me and hit me in the middle of my back with great force,” Cottrell said.

“I was in tremendous pain,” he said. “He just kept on and on and on. It wasn’t a quick assault.”

Madonna watched but did not try to stop Penn, said the journalists.

“She had a baseball cap on. She pulled it down and looked down to make sure her head wasn’t up for a picture,” Cottrell said.

Cottrell said he was given a back brace at a hospital and told he might have a cracked rib. Markham-Smith said Penn gave him a black eye.