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Friday, February 5, 1999 Published at 12:44 GMT


Diff'rent Strokes star sentenced

Gary Coleman at court in Inglewood, California

Former sitcom actor Gary Coleman has been sentenced to 90 days in jail in a California jail after pleading no contest in a case where he was accused of hitting an autograph hunter.

Coleman, who played Arnold in the US sitcom Diff'rent Strokes, hung his head and wept as his attorney discussed a plea-bargaining deal with the judge. He was also ordered to attend anger management classes.

The four feet, seven inches (1.37m) tall former child star told the court he was trying to get away from Tracy Fields when he hit her.

Now works as security guard

Coleman, who now works as a security guard at a shopping mall, said Ms Fields swore at him and called him a punk after the former actor gave her an autograph. Coleman, who weighs 6 stones 2lbs (39kg) - tore up the autograph and Fields - who is 14 stones 9lbs (92kg) - allegedly became menacing.

He said: "I'm very small, very delicate, you know. I don't break easy, but I do break. And I was getting real scared, so I thought it's either fight or flee."

Ms Fields claims to suffer from headaches and muscle spasms since the incident, and has filed a $1m lawsuit against Coleman.

Coleman, whose diminutive height is the result of a kidney condition, shot to fame in Diff'rent Strokes, which ran in the US for eight years from 1978.

Bad luck for show's stars

The show centred on Mr Drummond, a rich white widower played by Conrad Bain, who took in his former housekeeper's two black children, Arnold and Willis - played by Coleman and Todd Bridges - after she died.

However, being on screen did not bring good luck for the show's young stars. Coleman successfully sued his parents and former manager after accusing them of squandering his earnings.

Dana Plato, who played Drummond's daughter Kimberly, was accused of trying to rob a Las Vegas video store and in 1990 Todd Bridges was acquitted on charges of assault with a deadly weapon after a alleged crack dealer was shot.

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