Actor Charlie Sheen was charged Monday in a Colorado court with felony menacing, third-degree assault and criminal mischief, stemming from a Christmas Day incident in Aspen, Colo., in which he allegedly held a knife to his wife’s throat.
The charges raise new questions about the troubled actor’s successful entertainment career. For seven seasons, Sheen has starred in one of television’s most-watched comedies, “Two and a Half Men.”
Calling the charges part of a “personal situation” that has not affected ratings, CBS officials have repeatedly declined to comment.
Ninth Judicial District Chief Judge James B. Boyd allowed Sheen to return to Los Angeles with his wife, Brooke Mueller, and modified a protective order that had barred Sheen and Mueller from seeing each other.
The couple embraced after the hearing in Aspen and were set to return to Los Angeles on the same plane, the couple’s lawyers said.
“Literally the minute the judge said, ‘OK, you can have contact,’ they hugged and kissed,” said Mueller’s attorney, Yale Galanter.
“They’re both relieved,” Sheen’s attorney, Richard Cummins, said. “It’s pretty stressful on a couple with two children to not see each other.”
Sheen faces up to three years imprisonment if convicted on the felony menacing charge. He is scheduled to return to court March 15. If a disposition isn’t worked out, Cummins said, Sheen would enter a not guilty plea. Mueller was also looking for a peaceful resolution, her lawyer said.
“Her druthers would be for the charges to be dropped and to go away,” Galanter said.
Sheen was arrested Dec. 25 in Aspen after Mueller called police, saying she feared for her life. Sheen and Mueller had been arguing early that morning when she said she wanted a divorce, according to an affidavit.
Mueller, 32, told police that Sheen, 44, had pinned her to the bed, gripped her neck with one hand and held a knife to her throat as he straddled her.
After Sheen was arrested, Boyd had ordered Sheen not to come into contact with his wife or possess or consume alcohol or other controlled substances. He was released that night from Pitkin County Jail on $8,500 bail.
Sheen requested and was allowed to visit Mueller in a Sherman Oaks hospital in late January after surgery on her impacted wisdom teeth turned into a blood-borne infection leaving her with a 105-degree fever and, later, pneumonia, Galanter said.
Sheen and Mueller married in May 2008, and Mueller gave birth to twin boys in March 2009.
“Dec. 25 was a really bad night for them, obviously,” Galanter said. “I don’t believe an incident between a husband and wife that gets a little out of hand should be a guide as to how an entire marriage is or what the future holds.”
The case was “complex,” said Patti Giggans, executive director of Peace Over Violence, a Los Angeles-based social services agency that deals with domestic abuse and sexual assault.
A 1996 incident, coupled with Sheen’s high profile, may have encouraged prosecutors to file stronger charges, she said. In the previous incident, Sheen pleaded no contest to a misdemeanor charge of battery with serious bodily injury after he was accused of knocking then-girlfriend Brittany Ashland to the ground.
However, Mueller’s attempts to reconcile with her husband may mean the prosecution will have to deal with her as an unfriendly witness, Giggans said.
The Aspen incident has already had some effect on Sheen’s income. In January, the company that makes Hanes underwear dropped Sheen from its advertising campaign because of the charges.
And, adding to Sheen’s woes, burglars stole the actor’s Mercedes-Benz on Friday after he left his garage door open with the keys in the car. The vehicle was found crashed and abandoned in a ravine off Mulholland Drive. Police have yet to find the burglars, who also stole items from other homes in Sheen’s gated community in Sherman Oaks.