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Gary Coleman Pleads No Contest in Alleged Bowling Alley Assault

Actor Gary Coleman has pleaded no contest to a disorderly conduct charge stemming from a September incident at a bowling alley in Payson, about 60 miles south of Salt Lake City.

Coleman was ordered to pay a $100 fine in a Payson court Tuesday. He also pleaded no contest to a reckless driving charge, which will be waived if he doesn't have any other violations within a year.

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According to court documents, Coleman, his wife and his bodyguard were bowling in Payson in early September when Colt Rushton took a few photos of Coleman with his cell phone camera and took a few more of Coleman's truck in the parking lot.

Rushton's attorney, Dustin Lance, says Coleman's wife took Rushton's cell phone, a scuffle ensued and then Coleman ran into Rushton with his truck as he was backing out of the parking lot.

Coleman lives in a suburban home in nearby Santaquin and was considered a regular at the bowling alley.

In October, Coleman pleaded not guilty to the charges. His attorney, Randy Kester, said at the time that he wouldn't consider a plea deal because he said Coleman didn't break the law and that it might entitle Rushton to monetary damages.

On Tuesday, Kester said Coleman wants to get the ordeal behind and agreed to the no contest plea because it is not an admission of guilt.

"It was kind of a compromise. It's the kind of case we could probably have taken to a jury trial, but it would've taken two days and wasted a lot of state resources and a lot of our resources," Kester said. "We constructed it ourselves and just tried to come up with a way to resolve the city's concerns and at the same time protect Mr. Coleman."

Rushton's attorney, Dustin Lance, wanted the court to order restitution for injuries he says Rushton received, but the judge declined to consider it on Tuesday because Coleman also faces a civil lawsuit filed by Rushton.

"Mr. Coleman is pleading to the charges, but avoiding the responsibility for the charges for at least nine months," he said.

Lance said the restitution would cover medical expenses stemming from the incident, which he says are about $10,000 so far.

"However, the conservative treatment for his injuries have failed. My client has been referred to an orthopedic surgeon to discuss surgery on his knee," Lance said. "He's not on crutches, but there's quite a bit of pain."

Rushton's civil lawsuit probably will not be heard for at least a year, but now that the criminal case is over, Lance said he can finally force Coleman to give a deposition.

"He can no longer use the criminal case to hide behind and say he has a right not answer questions. He can no longer do that," he said. "So if anything, his plea today helps our case."

The incident in the bowling alley parking lot isn't Coleman's first run-in with the law in Utah.

In July, Coleman was cited for disorderly conduct in Provo after witnesses said they saw the former "Diff'rent Strokes" star in an argument with his wife.

Authorities said the two were in his truck having a heated discussion about their relationship when two people saw him hit the steering wheel with his hands, yell at her and run around his truck with his arms in the air. The witnesses feared for his wife's safety, according to the police report. He was later ordered to pay a fine.

Coleman moved to Santaquin in 2005, around the time he starred in "Church Ball," a comedy based on basketball leagues formed by members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

"Diff'rent Strokes" aired from 1978 to 1986. Coleman played a character named Arnold Jackson and was best known for the line, "Whatchu talkin' 'bout, Willis?"