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Halle Berry Gets Probation, Fine for Leaving Scene of Crash

May 11, 2000|MONTE MORIN | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Actress Halle Berry pleaded no contest Wednesday to charges of leaving the scene of a West Hollywood car accident and was sentenced to three years' probation, fined $13,500 and ordered to perform 200 hours of community service.

Countering the other driver's allegation, the prosecutor in the case at Beverly Hills Superior Court said there was no evidence that Berry had been impaired by drugs or alcohol at the time of the Feb. 23 collision.

The Golden Globe-winning star of the television miniseries "Introducing Dorothy Dandridge" suffered a forehead gash that required 22 stitches. The other driver had a broken wrist and other injuries and had to be helped from her car by rescuers.

On Wednesday, Berry, 33, told Judge Charles Rubin that she was very relieved that the "true facts," of the case had come out. "I have taken this matter very seriously from the beginning," said the actress, who wore a bandage over her wound.

Prosecutors filed the misdemeanor charge last month, after an investigation into the 2:30 a.m. mishap at Sunset Boulevard and Doheny Drive.

The other driver, Hetal Raythatha, 27, alleged that Berry's rented sport utility vehicle ran a red light and plowed into her car, and that Berry fled the scene.

Berry's lawyers say that she has lost her recollection of the incident as a result of her head injury.

Since the accident, Raythatha's lawyer has accused prosecutors of going easy on the actress. They denied this Wednesday.

"She got the same sentence that any other woman who walked through those courthouse doors would get," said Deputy Dist. Atty. Jodi Brandt. Berry had faced a maximum sentence that included a year in jail.

The issue of who was at fault in the accident was not determined in the criminal case.

Berry's troubles in criminal court may be over now, but the star still faces a potentially costly civil suit filed by Raythatha.

On Wednesday, Raythatha's lawyer said that progress in gathering evidence for the civil suit had slowed lately because Berry could not be forced to discuss the crash while facing criminal prosecution. Lawyer Richard Sherman said he will now pursue the civil case with renewed determination.

"She can't hide behind her 5th Amendment rights any longer," Sherman said. "Even now she's not accepting responsibility for this accident."

Berry's lawyers said she drove home after the crash and went to Cedars-Sinai Medical Center 90 minutes later.

Berry told a police officer she met at the hospital that she had been in an accident, and officially reported the crash the next morning.

In addition to accusing her of impaired driving because of drugs or alcohol, Raythatha and her lawyer alleged that Berry had been involved in two prior hit-and-run accidents elsewhere in the country. But on Wednesday, Berry's lawyers denounced those claims as untrue.

"Before this incident, Halle was involved in precisely one other car accident in her entire life, and a traffic investigation at the time cleared her of any wrongdoing," Berk said.

Berry, who starred with Warren Beatty in the 1998 film "Bulworth," also had roles in the movies "Executive Decision," "The Flintstones" and "Losing Isaiah."

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