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Veronique de Turenne

Here in Melibu

Mel Gibson completed a familiar celebrity rite of passage yesterday when he pleaded no contest to a misdemeanor drunk driving charge. He'll serve three years probation for his July 28 escapade, pay more than $1,600 in fines and attend "self help meetings" for a year. (Five meetings a week for the first 18 weeks, then three a week until the year is up.)

In an effort to keep things from going all O.J., the court date was suddenly moved up by more than a month. The AP assigned superstar court reporter Linda Deutsch to the drama unfolding in our little courthouse by the sea.

The abrupt advancement was announced to the news media by the district attorney's office with no time for most reporters to reach the courthouse before the proceeding was over.

Court documents showed that Gibson signed the plea agreement and waived his right to a jury trial Monday but that the paperwork was filed just before Thursday's proceeding.

Audio and video tapes of the incident are still under wraps, which makes the venerable Associated Press and upstart celebrity gossip web site, TMZ, co-crusaders in this First Amendment struggle.

Oh, and the original judge in the case, Terry Adamson? She recused herself. Mel's her neighbor.

Next entry: Oy

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