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Nicholson Settles Case : Courts: Assault and vandalism charges against actor are dropped. Victim of golf club attack tells judge he was compensated.

SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Vandalism and assault charges were dropped against Jack Nicholson on Monday after the man the actor attacked with a golf club following a traffic dispute told a judge that he had been compensated and did not wish to press charges.

Citing “the violent nature of the attack,” prosecutors opposed the decision by Van Nuys Municipal Judge Martin Suits.

Suits found that a civil compromise had been reached, in which Nicholson paid Robert Scott Blank an undisclosed monetary settlement. Under state law, the finding effectively dismisses the charges and prevents authorities from prosecuting later.

At a hearing in the judge’s chambers, Blank “spoke quite forcefully” in favor of the civil compromise, according to Nicholson’s attorney, Charles R. English.

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“It’s over,” said Blank’s attorney, Charles E. Ruben, as he quickly moved past a gathering of reporters. Blank, a 38-year-old Hollywood resident, refused to comment on any aspect of either the civil or criminal cases.

Nicholson did not appear in court Monday.

The Oscar-winning actor was charged with misdemeanor assault and vandalism in a Feb. 8 attack near the intersection of Moorpark Way and Riverside Drive in Toluca Lake following a minor traffic dispute. Nicholson admitted that he used a 3-iron to repeatedly strike Blank’s Mercedes-Benz.

English said Nicholson had “some extraordinary circumstances going on in his life on the morning this happened,” citing a rigorous shooting schedule on his latest film and the recent death of one of his closest friends.

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Acknowledging that Nicholson “went a step too far,” English said civil compromises “happen all the time in courts throughout the state.”

With overcrowded criminal courtrooms, “the public can be happy it’s over because an insignificant case was taken out of the criminal justice system,” English said.

Deputy City Atty. Jeff Harkavy said Nicholson should be prosecuted because he first hit the roof of the car, then he swung the golf club “toward the victim’s face,” striking the windshield. The prosecutor said Blank suffered minor injuries when glass from the windshield struck him in the face and he received “some minor cuts on his nose.”

The city attorney’s office either supports or opposes civil compromises based on an assessment of the seriousness of the criminal offense.

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English said prosecutors strenuously opposed the civil compromise because of Nicholson’s fame.

“It only reached this level because Mr. Nicholson is Mr. Nicholson,” English said, reasoning that prosecutors were justifiably concerned with the chance that the public would perceive that the actor received special treatment.

“In fact, Mr. Nicholson has been treated differently,” English said. “He’s been treated more severely than an ordinary citizen.”

Nicholson, a star of the film “A Few Good Men” and many others, won an Academy Award in 1975 for his portrayal of a mental patient in “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.”

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