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Coleman Makes Plea in Battery Case

February 5, 1999

INGLEWOOD, Calif. (AP) _ More than a decade after his last performance as the lovable Arnold in ``Diff’rent Strokes,″ former child actor Gary Coleman pleaded no-contest to disturbing the peace for punching an autograph-seeker in the eye.

Coleman hung his head and wept as Municipal Court Commissioner Ulysses Burns sentenced him Thursday to a 90-day suspended jail sentence, fined him $400 and ordered him to attend 52 anger-management classes.

Coleman, 30, had faced a battery charge, which could have meant up to six months in jail and a $2,000 fine if he had been convicted.

``She expected me to treat her like gold (because she was a fan),″ Coleman said of his initial impression of Tracy Fields, the woman he admitted to punching in the eye. ``Like I was supposed to kowtow to her.″

According to Coleman’s account, Ms. Field bristled, got huffy and blocked his path after he refused to embellish an autograph on July 30. He said he was afraid she was going to hit him.

``And I’m very small, very delicate, you know,″ he said. ``And I was getting real scared, so I thought it’s either fight or flee. I thought if I distracted her with a blow I can flee. So I hit her.″

Ms. Field suffered a black eye. She has filed a civil suit against Coleman, claiming she has suffered from headaches since the attack.

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