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Thursday, 11 May, 2000, 09:55 GMT 10:55 UK
Film star Berry escapes jail
Halle Berry
Relieved: Actress Halle Berry with Golden Globe award
Hollywood star Halle Berry has been put on probation for three years and fined $13,500 (8,500) for leaving the scene of an accident.

The 33-year-old actress was also ordered to do 200 hours community service after pleading no contest to the allegation.

The Superior Court in Beverly Hills, California, heard her rented Chevrolet car had smashed into another after she'd gone through a red light.

Berry had then driven off, leaving the driver of the other vehicle with a broken wrist and other injuries.

Warren Beatty
Warren Beatty, who starred with Berry in the 1998 film Bulworth

The incident happened on Hollywood's Sunset Boulevard on 23 February.

A plea of no contest in California carries the same weight as a conviction, even though the defendant does not admit guilt.

In Berry's case, she escaped a more serious hit-and-run charge after prosecutors took into account that she had been left dazed by the crash and had reported it to police later at a hospital where she received 20 stitches in a head wound.

The driver of the other car, Hetal Raythatha, is suing the actress for damages, claiming she was under the influence of drink and drugs - a claim Berry denies.

The actress, who starred with Warren Beatty in Bulworth and won a Golden Globe for her role in the US TV movie Introducing Dorothy Dandridge, said she was "very relieved" at the outcome.

She told Judge Charles G. Rubin: "Your honour, I would like the court to know that I have taken this matter very seriously from the very beginning. I am pleased that this can be resolved."

Berry, who was facing a maximum sentence of a year in jail, paid her fine immediately.

Her lawyer, Blair Berk, later rejected suggestions made by Raythatha's representative that she had received preferential treatment because of her status.

"I know both the Sheriff's Department and the DA's office would vigorously dispute that notion. So would I," he said.

"The only impact Halle's celebrity had on this case has been to subject it - and Halle - to unprecedented scrutiny."

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