Gary Coleman pleads guilty to domestic violence, avoids jail

Published February 8, 2010 4:56 pm
Courts » Former TV star says, 'I've been in better places on my birthday.'
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Onetime "Diff'rent Strokes" star Gary Coleman got a unique birthday present Monday: A chance to avoid spending a month in the Utah County Jail.

Coleman, 42, accepted a plea deal on domestic violence charges in the Santaquin Justice Court. In return for pleading guilty to a charge of domestic violence/criminal mischief -- a class B misdemeanor -- prosecutor Brett Rich agreed to drop a domestic violence/assault charge. The charges stem from an April incident between Coleman and his wife, Shannon Price.

Justice Court Judge Sharla Williams fined the former child star $595 and ordered him to take classes on avoiding domestic violence. She also suspended a 30-day jail sentence, dependent upon Coleman paying his fine in the next year and completing the classes.

"Just mind your P's and Q's, and you'll be in good shape," Williams said.

Coleman said he would pay the fine in monthly $50 installments.

"I've been in better places on my birthday," Coleman said before the hearing. Afterward, he told reporters that there was not much to say, as he avoided a big fine and a jail sentence.

"I'm going to lunch," Coleman said as he walked out.

Coleman did have to spend a day and half in jail in January when he failed to appear in court on the charges. Coleman's attorney, Randy Kester, said Coleman didn't make the original arraignment because of health problems. Coleman offered to provide medical records to show he was not able to attend and apologized for not being there. Coleman was bailed out of jail by a fan, Jarrod Clarke.

Rich said the time in jail was sufficient punishment for Coleman's failure to appear.

Kester said the deal was fair.

Coleman and his wife "had a little tiff at home, and no one was injured," Kester said. He said Coleman also faces stress from health problems and his celebrity status, and he said the course will help him deal with it.

"It's something we could all use," Kester said afterward.

Williams also agreed not to hold Coleman liable if he misses class appointments if his absence is caused by his heart or kidney problems, or if he is working out of state.

Coleman and his wife are no strangers to marital discord -- or the courts. In July, Price was arrested on suspicion of domestic violence/criminal mischief and disorderly conduct after a fight in which she "destroyed" Coleman's bedroom.

The couple previously sought counseling on TV's "Divorce Court."

In December 2008, Coleman pleaded no contest to disorderly conduct charges after he hit a man with his truck in a Payson bowling alley parking lot in a dispute over photos the man took of Coleman. Coleman settled a personal injury suit with the man in late 2009.

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