Dustin Diamond, famous for playing the character Screech in the ’90s TV show “Saved by the Bell,” was recently convicted and sentenced for two misdemeanors stemming from a bar fight.
To some, Diamond’s sentence – 120 days in jail and 15 months probation – seems excessive. He was found guilty of carrying a concealed weapon and disorderly conduct with a concealed weapon, but the alleged victim only suffered a superficial knife injury less than one centimeter in length. Throughout the case, Diamond maintained that he was simply protecting his fiancée, who he alleged was hit in the face by aggressors. He also stated that the victim and his friends kept taking pictures of him and his fiancé without permission or displaying basic respect.
Others, including Ozaukee County (WI) District Court Judge Paul Malloy, view Diamond’s actions as unjustifiable.
The sentence “has to send a message to the community that we’re just not going to live like this,” Malloy said during sentencing.
Special factors in the “Screech” case
The community that Malloy referred to may have a lot to do with the harsh sentence. Port Washington, Wisconsin – where Diamond lives – is a small city of roughly 10,000 on the coast of Lake Michigan. Port Washington is the county seat of Ozaukee County, which had the second-lowest poverty rate in the U.S. in the 2000 census. The area has a low crime rate, especially those involving violence.
It is conceivable – perhaps likely – that Diamond would have received a more lenient sentence had his arrest occurred 20 miles north in Milwaukee County. The location of an arrest and trial can be a significant factor in the case. Another factor in the outcome may have been Diamond’s fame as the character, Screech.
Diamond’s arrest and trial was covered by the mainstream national media. It was a situation where the prosecutor and judge understood that their names would be in the news. We are not accusing any officials of improper conduct. Still, consciously or subconsciously, Diamond’s fame and the media frenzy surrounding his case may have contributed to the tough sentencing. At the least, his Screech fame may have been the catalyst for the barroom brawl.
Diamond’s criminal case illustrates why it is important to work with an experienced defense attorney whose analysis goes beyond the facts of the case itself. Attention to seemingly minor details can make the difference in a conviction or the harshness of a sentence.