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Ex-HBO chief pleads no contest

Times Staff Writers

Former HBO Chief Executive Chris Albrecht pleaded no contest Friday to misdemeanor battery, admitting to the “unlawful grabbing” of his girlfriend during a quarrel in Las Vegas on Sunday.

Albrecht, 54, was forced out of his job this week in the wake of the incident with 37-year-old Karla Jensen and revelations in The Times of an altercation in 1991 with a woman who worked for him at HBO in Los Angeles.

Under the terms of his plea agreement, Albrecht received a six-month suspended sentence in Clark County Detention Center and a year of unsupervised probation, Clark County District Atty. David Roger said.

Albrecht agreed to pay a $1,000 fine and undergo domestic violence counseling, Roger said.

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Also as part of the plea, Albrecht “acknowledged there was an unlawful grabbing” of Jensen, his Las Vegas defense lawyer, David Chesnoff, said.

Albrecht and Jensen jointly released statements Friday saying that they were both to blame for the incident and that they planned to stay together.

“My behavior was clearly inappropriate,” Albrecht said. “I apologized to Karla ... and I now look forward to putting this behind us and getting on with our lives.”

Jensen said that she and Albrecht “made a mistake last weekend,” blaming the incident on “both of us drinking too much alcohol.”

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She said she was “not injured and know he cares about me.” She said the argument “got out of hand, but I still love him and I forgive him.”

However, details in the Las Vegas police report released Friday paint a slightly different picture of the events that occurred at 3 a.m. on Sunday outside the MGM Grand Hotel in Las Vegas, where Albrecht was attending a boxing match between Oscar De La Hoya and Floyd Mayweather Jr. (HBO’s pay-per-view service televised the event.)

Officers at the site observed Albrecht in the valet parking area grabbing Jensen by the throat with two hands and dragging her toward the entrance of the hotel.

Police had to free Albrecht’s grip on Jensen before putting him in a submission hold and placing him on the ground. After Albrecht was taken into custody, police said they could smell a “strong odor of alcohol” on his breath and observed that his speech was slurred and he was “unsteady on his feet.” Albrecht said the two had been arguing and that his girlfriend had “pissed me off.”

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Officers said they saw “red marks” on Jensen’s neck when they interviewed her.

Jensen declined medical attention and repeatedly said she did not want to press charges and would not cooperate with the investigation.

Roger said his office decided to accept a plea to battery rather than the more serious misdemeanor of battery/domestic violence because Jensen had hired a lawyer and was refusing to cooperate with investigators.

To make their case on a domestic violence count, prosecutors would have had to prove there was a domestic relationship, which Roger said would have been difficult without Jensen’s testimony.

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Roger said Albrecht received no special treatment. “His status in society meant nothing in this case,” he said.

In Nevada law, battery is defined as “the harmful or offensive touching of another,” Roger said, adding: “The facts are that he grabbed her around the neck.”

The plea agreement was reached Thursday afternoon after negotiations that began when Albrecht was released from his 12-hour “cooling off” detention Sunday afternoon, Chesnoff and Roger said.

Earlier in the week, Albrecht took a leave of absence from HBO, sending an e-mail to his employees apologizing for “any embarrassment it caused my family, the company I love, and myself.” He blamed the incident on having resumed drinking after having been “a sober member of Alcoholics Anonymous for 13 years.”

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He said that he planned to go back to AA.

On Wednesday, Albrecht was forced out of his job by his bosses at HBO corporate parent Time Warner Inc. after a report in The Times that the company in 1991 had paid a settlement of more than $400,000 to Sasha Emerson, Albrecht’s subordinate and former lover who accused him of throwing her out of a chair and choking her.

Albrecht, who joined HBO in 1985 and was promoted to chairman in July 2002, was considered a creative force at the cable channel for spearheading such popular offbeat shows as “The Sopranos” and “Sex and the City.”

thomas.mulligan@latimes.com

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claudia.eller@latimes.com


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