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Former 'Diff'rent Strokes' star Gary Coleman pleads guilty to criminal mischief

Former child television star Gary Coleman pleaded guilty Monday to a misdemeanor criminal mischief charge related to a domestic violence incident last April.

In a deal with the prosecutor, Coleman entered the plea in Santaquin Justice Court on his 42nd birthday.

Court clerk Jane Swan says the original charge of domestic violence assault was dropped. No details of the April 18 incident are detailed in court documents, but defense attorney Randy Kester told The Associated Press that Coleman and his wife, Shannon Price, had an argument which got out of hand.

“No one was injured and no ambulances were called,” Kester said by phone. “It was just a disagreement.” Judge Sharla Williams sentenced Coleman to 31 1/2 days in jail. The “Diff'rent Strokes” star will serve the time only if he fails to complete a domestic violence course and pay a $595 fine.

“I think it's an exceptionally fair resolution,” Coleman's attorney, Randy Kester, told the AP by phone. “He's been under an extreme amount of stress.” Kester said Coleman has suffered a string of health problems — dialysis for an ongoing kidney condition and heart surgery that was complicated by pneumonia last fall — and has struggled to find work.

Coleman was arrested Jan. 24 at home on a warrant for failing to appear in court. He spent a night in jail before a fan paid his $1,725 bail. Kester said Coleman missed the court appearance because he was in the hospital.

Coleman moved to Santaquin, about 65 miles south of Salt Lake City, in 2005, around the time he starred in “Church Ball,” a comedy based on basketball leagues formed by members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. He met Price on the movie set.

In December 2008, Coleman pleaded no contest to a disorderly conduct charge stemming from an incident in a bowling alley parking lot three months earlier and was ordered to pay a $100 fine.

A personal injury lawsuit against Coleman and Price, 24, related to the same incident has been settled. Colt Rushton accused Coleman of hitting him with his truck after an altercation over photos.

“Diff'rent Strokes” aired in 1978-86. Coleman played Arnold Jackson, best known for the line, “Whatchu talkin' 'bout, Willis?”

-- Associated Press

By Washington Post Editors  |  February 8, 2010; 4:34 PM ET
Categories:  Around the Nation , Celebrities  
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