'Saved by the Bell' actor cleared of felony charge, convicted of misdemeanours
Television actor Dustin Diamond, centre, exits the courtroom in Port Washington, Wis., Friday night, May 29, 2015. (AP / Dana Ferguson
Dana Ferguson, The Associated Press
Published Saturday, May 30, 2015 8:05AM EDT
PORT WASHINGTON, Wis. -- TV actor Dustin Diamond was convicted Friday of two misdemeanours stemming from a barroom fight, but a Wisconsin jury cleared the former "Saved by the Bell" actor of the most serious felony charge.
The jury's verdict came just hours after the 38-year-old actor testified that he never intended to stab anyone in the fight last Christmas Day. He had pleaded not guilty to a felony charge of recklessly endangering public safety, plus two misdemeanours -- carrying a concealed weapon and disorderly conduct.
Diamond, who played the character Screech on the popular 1990s show, said some people had wanted to shake his hand and pose for photos at the bar, but that others were badgering him and his girlfriend, Amanda Schutz. He said he was trying to scare bar patrons in Port Washington after his girlfriend was punched in the face.
"I felt like we were being set up for antagonistic purposes," he said.
Witnesses testified that Schutz pushed one woman at the bar and grabbed another woman's hand, initiating the incident. Schutz also faces a misdemeanour disorderly conduct charge.
Diamond said he tried to help Schutz and took out his pocketknife to deter the group from hurting her more.
The man who was stabbed, 25-year-old Casey Smet, testified Thursday that he didn't know he had been stabbed until he had left the bar and was talking to police.
After maintaining a serious facade during most of the trial, Diamond grinned Friday when a defence attorney asked if he liked being compared to the character Screech. Diamond said he, like his character, enjoyed nerdy things. And Diamond said he liked being identified in public as the goofy television character.
"That means they love you," Diamond said. "That means you're doing your job."
No apparent "Saved by the Bell" fans sat in the galleries during the three-day trial. But another apparent fan, Diamond's defence attorney Thomas Alberti, wrote "Good Luck to Dustin & Amanda" on his car window Wednesday ahead of the trial. Circuit Court Judge Paul Malloy scolded Alberti and told him to remove it because it was "inappropriate."
Port Washington is 25 miles north of Milwaukee.