Actor Todd Bridges Acquitted of Assault in Shooting of Drug Dealer
LOS ANGELES (AP) _ ″Diff’rent Strokes″ star Todd Bridges was acquitted Thursday of assault in the shooting of a narcotics dealer at a drug den. It was the second trial clearing the actor of criminal charges.
Bridges, 25, looked up and breathed a heavy sigh after the Superior Court jury announced its verdict.
″I feel a lot of relief that it’s over,″ Bridges said outside court.
Bridges, who played Gary Coleman’s brother Willis on the NBC series for eight years, faced a retrial in the February 1989 point-blank shooting of convicted drug dealer Kenneth ″Tex″ Clay.
In the first trial, jurors acquitted Bridges of attempted murder, but deadlocked on the assault charge. Prosecutors decided to retry Bridges on a charge of assault with a deadly weapon.
Deputy District Attorney William Hodgman contended that Bridges shot Clay several times at a south-central Los Angeles drug house because Clay allegedly stole the actor’s BMW.
Clay recovered from the gunshot wounds to his arms and chest.
The prosecution said Bridges admitted to the attack as he was being booked by police.
But defense attorney Johnnie Cochran argued his client was in the middle of a four-day cocaine binge during the attack at the drug den, and that someone else shot Clay.
The jury deliberated for three days, spending much of Wednesday reviewing the testimony of two key prosecution witnesses who claimed to have seen Bridges with a gun shortly before the shooting.
″The evidence was lacking in this case,″ said Cochran. ″We proved that Todd Bridges did not do the shooting.″
But Deputy District Attorney William Hodgman said jurors may have been influenced by Bridges’ fame from appearances in the situation comedies ″Diff’rent Strokes″ and ″Fish.″ After announcing the verdict, at least one juror asked for Bridges’ autograph.
″When you have a celebrity defendant, the normal rules don’t apply and I think that’s what happened here,″ Hodgman said.
In his closing argument, Cochran blamed the shooting on Bridge’s former co- defendant, Harvie Duckett, who had pleaded guilty to an accessory charge and was promised leniency for his testimony.
Cochran said Bridges, an actor since age 6, was actually a victim in the case, a cocaine addict who fell prey to violent drug users.