TV actor Dustin Diamond was convicted Friday of two misdemeanors 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 misdemeanors — carrying a concealed weapon and disorderly conduct.
The first misdemeanor carries a maximum sentence of nine months in prison, the second a maximum of 90 days in prison.
Diamond didn't display emotion at the jury's decision Friday night. He told reporters he couldn't comment as he left the courtroom after a 13-hour day of testimony and jury deliberations.
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 misdemeanor 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 defense 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.”
Ozaukee County District Attorney Adam Gerol argued Friday that Diamond lied about what happened and that the actor had scripted his testimony.
Gerol showed body-camera footage of Diamond's testimony to a Port Washington police officer the night of the fight. In the video Diamond first said he might have struck Smet with a pen. In a video of testimony later that night, Diamond said he had a knife at the bar, but hadn't used it to stab anyone.
No apparent “Saved by the Bell” fans sat in the galleries during the three-day trial. But another apparent fan, Diamond's defense 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.”
The jury also convicted Schutz with disorderly conduct Friday night. Schutz faces a maximum of 90 days in prison.
A sentencing date for Diamond and Schutz has not been announced.
Port Washington is 25 miles north of Milwaukee.