- Associated Press - Friday, October 22, 2010

BEVERLY HILLS, CALIF. (AP) - Lindsay Lohan sidestepped another jail stint Friday when a California judge sent the 24-year-old troubled starlet back to rehab, telling her she was an addict and faced jail time if she relapsed again.

Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Elden S. Fox ordered Lohan to remain at the Betty Ford Center until Jan. 3 and report back to court in late February.

“You are an addict, I hope you understand that,” Fox told Lohan.

A prosecutor had advocated a six-month jail sentence for the “Mean Girls” star, but Fox opted for rehab after reviewing filings by probation and rehab officials and a letter written by Lohan.

The actress told probation officials last week that she didn’t want to remain in rehab for longer than a month because “continued inpatient treatment would be a hardship financially, and damaging to her career,” according to a report filed in advance of a hearing Friday.

Probation officials and Lohan’s doctors recommended she remain at Betty Ford, and the judge agreed.

The actress cried after hearing the sentence.

The judge acknowledged that Lohan, 24, has been in-and-out of court and rehab since a pair of high-profile arrests in 2007. He told the actress that he would not be manipulated by her, but was giving her a final chance to stay clean.

“You’re staying past the New Year’s _ there’s a reason for that,” Fox said.

Fox’s sentence means Lohan will not be returning to a suburban Los Angeles women’s jail for a fourth time.

The judge had threatened to send Lohan to jail for 30 days for each drug test she skipped or failed. He ordered her held for nearly a month during a hearing in September, but another judge overturned his ruling and Lohan has been free on bail and in inpatient rehab voluntarily since then.

Lohan is due back in court Feb. 25.

Prosecutor Danette Meyers, who has handled the case since its filing, told Fox that Lohan had entered rehab for a fifth time last month only because she was afraid of going back to jail.

“The only reason she’s in Betty Ford is because the court was going to send her to jail,” Meyers said. “She didn’t have some epiphany.”

Lohan’s attorney, Shawn Chapman Holley, said her client was doing her best and that relapse was part of addiction recovery.

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