By JILL LAWLESS / The Associated Press
LONDON (AP) — George Michael was sentenced to eight weeks in jail Tuesday for driving while under the influence of drugs in an incident in which he crashed his car into a photo shop.
A judge told the wayward star his addiction to marijuana put him and the public at risk.
The singer pleaded guilty last month to driving under the influence and possession of cannabis following a July 4 collision between his Range Rover and a Snappy Snaps photo store in north London.
District Judge John Perkins told the singer he had taken a “dangerous and unpredictable mix” of prescription drugs and marijuana.
“It does not appear that you took proper steps to deal with what is clearly an addiction to cannabis,” the judge said. “That’s a mistake which puts you and, on this occasion, the public at risk.”
Perkins sentenced Michael to the prison time and a 1,250 pound ($1,930) fine during a hearing at Highbury Corner Magistrates’ Court.
The judge said Michael would have to serve four weeks of the sentence in prison and the rest on parole. He also banned Michael from driving for five years.
Michael arrived at court in a chauffeur-driven car, surrounded by four security guards and greeted by a large crowd of fans and photographers. He left in the company of court guards who led him from the courtroom toward the cells, as one person in the public gallery sobbed.
According to police, Michael appeared “spaced out” when they found him sitting in the car, whose engine was still running, in the wee hours of July 4.
Prosecutors said Michael acknowledged smoking marijuana and taking a prescription sedative.
It was the latest in a string of automotive and drug-related mishaps for the 47-year-old star, who has often spoken of his fondness for marijuana.
In February 2006, he was found slumped at the wheel of his car at London’s busy Hyde Park Corner. That April, he hit three parked cars while trying to maneuver out of a parking space, and admitted being “a terrible driver.”
In October 2006, he was found slumped over the wheel of his car, which was blocking an intersection. He pleaded guilty to driving while unfit through drugs and was sentenced to community service.
Michael’s lawyer, Mukul Chawla, said the singer felt “profound shame and horror” at his actions.
“It is no exaggeration to describe him as a very kind, considerate and loyal man, constantly concerned for the plight of others,” Chawla said.
“The prospect he could have put anyone else in danger is an appalling prospect to him.”
The judge said he was sending Michael to jail “with regret,” and had taken into account his guilty plea and the fact that after the crash he had checked into a clinic to seek help for anxiety, depression and insomnia.
But he said Michael’s previous conviction made a prison sentence inevitable.
Michael sighed as sentence was passed. His long-term partner Kenny Goss at one point buried his head in his hands.
Michael gained mega-stardom in his early 20s as half of Wham! and went on to a successful solo career. His first solo album, 1987’s “Faith,” has sold 20 million copies.
In 1998 he was arrested for lewd conduct in a public toilet in Los Angeles after being spotted by an undercover police officer. Michael went on to release a single and video, “Outside,” that poked fun at his arrest.