Paula Poundstone wants to make people laugh again, but a Santa Monica judge ruled she must focus on more serious matters as he handed down her sentence for felony child abuse and infliction of injury upon a child.
The subdued and dejected stand-up comedian, who pleaded no contest to child endangerment charges last month, was back in court to hear the sentence and request permission to return to performing as soon as possible–even as her attorney Steven Cron made public new details surrounding her still-sealed case.
The sentence, handed down by Superior Court Judge Bernard Kamins, took away Poundstone’s right to parent foster children and ordered her to abstain from any type of corporal punishment for her adopted children. It also includes a mandatory 180-day stay at the Malibu-based rehab facility Promises (which caters to high-profile celebrity clients like Ben Affleck), whose staff will determine how often Poundstone is allowed to see her adopted children, and requires she fulfill 200 hours of community service.
Other conditions include a five-year probation, psychiatric counseling once a week for a year, abstention from alcohol and avoiding bars and liquor stores, regular attendance at a recovery program like Alcoholics Anonymous three times a week upon leaving Promises, a $1,000 fine and restitution for court and child services expenses.
Because Poundstone has already spent 125 days at Promises, Cron made the request that the comic be allowed to return to work on the stand-up stage during the 55 days remaining in her stay.
“The program people uniformly believe she needs to get reacquainted with her life,” Cron told Kamins. Comparing the request to a common work furlough from county jail, Cron said “there’s been a lot of interest in Paula getting back on stage.”
Kamins, however, rejected the request, saying he was reluctant to put the comedian back in the spotlight before she has successfully completed another two months of mandatory rehab for alcohol abuse. “What I don’t want to do is treat her any differently because of her status in the media spotlight,” he said. “I don’t want to hurt her because of her status in the spotlight, either.”
Nevertheless, Kamins was encouraging about the comic’s ability to return to the stage. “I note that she has a unique sense of humor [that’s] going to get better after this life experience.”
Poundstone’s lawyers had agreed on a settlement on the child endangerment charges and earlier charges alleging lewd conduct with a minor were subsequently dropped. Appearing before reporters after the court session, Cron shed a glimmer of light on the charges against his client, which have remained sealed since her arrest in June to protect the children involved.
The attorney said that Poundstone admitted to the charge of driving four of the children to get ice cream while she was intoxicated. Although there was no accident or police citation, the incident, reported by witnesses, prompted the investigation.
Cron also suggested that any potential injury to the children might have been emotional rather than physical, as both are equally defined under the criminal code.
Poundstone did not join her attorney before the media as she had in the past but did give a statement. “As I said when this was first announced last month, the lewd conduct charges against me were dismissed because they weren’t true. I pleaded no contest to the child endangerment/injury charges because they were. My drinking helped create a dangerous situation for the children. For this I am very sorry. For my kids’ sake as well as my own, I am determined to put my alcohol problems behind me.”
When asked if the comic was still able to crack jokes after her very serious experiences, Cron grinned and said, “If you know Paula, as I’ve gotten to do in the past several months, you’ll know Paula finds humor in everything.”