STUTTGART, Germany (AP) _ Greeted by 200 applauding fans, U.S. rapper Coolio denied charges of theft and assault in court, one year after his arrest for allegedly punching a saleswoman during a European tour.

Police officials say the Grammy-award winning artist and six members of his group left a boutique in a Stuttgart suburb last Nov. 20 without paying for clothing worth $940.

The rapper is accused of hitting the saleswoman in the stomach when she confronted the group.

On Thursday, Coolio denied punching the woman and said the incident was a misunderstanding. He says he signed autographs in the boutique, and that in exchange a clothing company had promised him and his group free outfits.

``It was understood that the clothes were in exchange for the autographs,'' Coolio said, represented by his German lawyer Georg Prasser. Coolio told the court he offered to pay for the clothes but that the saleswoman would accept cash but not his credit card.

Police arrested Coolio, 35, in Frankfurt, 90 miles to the north. The group was released after posting $167,000 bail and was allowed to finish its tour.

Coolio, whose real name is Artis Leon Ivey Jr., won a Grammy for best rap solo in 1996 for ``Gangsta's Paradise,'' which was featured in the film ``Dangerous Minds.''

He faces four years in prison if convicted. The trial is to resume next week, and prosecutors say they expect a verdict in mid-December.

In September, Coolio was arrested in Los Angeles for carrying a concealed weapon and possession of marijuana after police pulled him over for driving on the wrong side of a street.