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Late Christmas night, Dustin Diamond, better known as “Screech,” the troubled former child star of “Saved by the Bell” fame, entered a dive bar in Southeastern Wisconsin with his fiancée, Amanda Schutz.  Reports and witness statements indicate that Diamond and other bar patrons got into a fight after one of the men either hit or bumped into Ms. Schutz.   Things escalated, and Diamond allegedly stabbed the guy.   Diamond and his girlfriend left the bar, but were stopped with police as they drove away.

In a hearing on January 22, 2015, he pled not guilty to charges of felony recklessly endangering safety, misdemeanor carrying a concealed weapon and misdemeanor disorderly conduct.  He was released on a $500 signature bond.

If convicted, Diamond could face 2, 4, or 6 years in prison for the felony charge, and a year each for the two misdemeanors.  But the fates may be smiling on Diamond again.  It seems the man who was stabbed told police on the night of the incident that he had aggressively shoved Diamond, and only realized he had been stabbed later.

If true, Diamond has a classic case of “self-defense.”   Of course it’s not all cut and dry.   For a person to be acquitted based on self-defense, the person must be in fear for his or another’s safety, the danger must be imminent, and he can only use what is called “like force.”  Basically, you can’t bring a gun to a knife fight or in this case a knife to a fist fight.   You can only use the amount and type of force used against you.  In this case, the prosecutor may try to argue that Diamond upped the stakes by using a knife when only pushing and shoving was occurring.  Of course Diamond’s defense attorney would be expected to argue that Diamond’s use of force was appropriate and legal under the circumstances.  He and his girlfriend were being assaulted, he felt over-powered and thought it was imminent that he and/or his girlfriend would be seriously injured.  If he can convince the jury of this, he might beat the felony charge.  However, the “self-defense” argument won’t get him out of the two misdemeanors.

This case, however, will probably never see a jury trial.  Cases like these, whether involving former celebrities or just us regular folks, usually get resolved by plea negotiation.  I would expect the prosecutor to drop the felony charge and negotiate some type of plea to one of the misdemeanors with consequences including some combination of from anger management classes, community service, and fines.  However, it is unlikely “Screech” will be playing behind bars.

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About The Author

Los Angeles-based, celebrity criminal defense attorney, Lonnie McDowell, Esq of McDowell & Associates, Attorneys recognized with the Top 100 Trial Attorneys Award; shares his insight into the legal system in this series of commentaries.

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