Actor Todd Bridges was acquitted Thursday on charges of shooting a drug dealer eight times in a South-Central Los Angeles rock house. It was the second time he was found not guilty of charges stemming from the shooting.
A Superior Court jury deliberated for a day and a half before finding the co-star of the old comedy series "Diff'rent Strokes" not guilty of charges of assault by firearm.
"This trial shows that justice is alive and well in Los Angeles," said Bridges' attorney, Johnnie Cochran.
Bridges was accused of wounding Kenneth (Tex) Clay, a convicted Texas drug dealer, eight times on Feb. 2, 1989, at a residence in South-Central Los Angeles where drugs were sold. During the trial it was brought out that Bridges and others had been taking cocaine before the shooting, and that the actor was angry at Clay, who had stolen his BMW.
During the weeklong trial, two female prosecution witnesses testified that they saw Bridges in the rock house with a gun. One of the women said she saw Bridges shoot the man after an argument.
But two defense witnesses, who lived next door to the house where the shooting took place, testified that they saw Bridges leave shortly before the gunfire erupted.
The jurors said later that the prosecution's case appeared to have too many holes.
"We were disappointed in the verdict, but the jury has made its decision," said Sandy Gibbons, a spokeswoman for the district attorney's office.
The actor could have been sentenced to up to seven years in state prison.
Bridges 25, of Sun Valley, had been brought to trial late last year for the same incident, but another jury acquitted him of a charge of attempted murder with great bodily injury, which carries a possible life sentence. The jury in that case deadlocked 8 to 4 in favor of acquittal on a second count of assault with a firearm, and the prosecutor decided to retry him on that charge.
The shooting victim, Clay, survived his eight wounds, including those to his right shoulder, left armpit, upper lip and neck. He testified at Bridges' first trial that the actor and a friend, Harvey Duckett, kicked open his door and that Bridges shot him. Duckett also testified in the first trial against the actor--after pleading no contest to being an accomplice in the attack. During the first trial, Bridges testified that he was too intoxicated at the time of the incident to recall if he had shot Clay.
Neither Clay, Bridges nor Duckett testified in the second trial. But the defense brought forth evidence showing that Los Angeles police found bloodstains on Duckett's clothing and not on Bridges'. In 1987, Bridges received a suspended sentence after pleading no contest to charges of making a bomb threat. In 1983, he was fined $240 for carrying a concealed firearm.
Cochran, who characterized his client as a victim of America's drug epidemic, said Bridges had been addicted to cocaine since childhood and had run with a tough crowd of drug-users. Cochran said his client had been in a drug rehabilitation program, has married and plans to try to get back into television.
"He's also going to start talking to kids about the problems of drug addiction," Cochran said.