COMPTON, Calif. -- Actor Todd Bridges was cleared Tuesday of charges he stole his own car from a repair shop, allegedly because a man Bridges is accused of trying to kill admitted that he stole the vehicle, law enforcement sources said.
Municipal Court Commissioner Bob Bowers dismissed the armed robbery case against Bridges, 23, the former child star of NBC's 'Diff'rent Strokes' sitcom, because prosecutors said they now believe Bridges is innocent.
Bridges, of Sun Valley, had been accused of stealing his BMW at gunpoint from a South Central Los Angeles repair man without paying a $500 repair bill last January.
But Deputy District Attorney Steve Sowders said 'substantial evidence has been developed that indicates (Bridges) did not commit the robbery.'
Sowders said the new evidence was obtained from a witness who said someone else had committed the crime. Sowders said investigators are now determining whether to charge the other suspect.
Based on the new evidence, Bridges was placed in a police line-up to determine if the robbery victim could identify him, but the victim could not, Sowders said.
Sowders declined to identify the other suspect in the car theft.
But a law enforcement source familiar with the case said the suspect is Kenneth Clay, a Texas drug dealer who Bridges is charged with attempting to murder inside a south central Los Angeles cocaine rock house Feb. 2.
The source, who asked not to be identified, said Clay has allegedly confessed to stealing the car.
Bridges remains in custody in lieu of $2 million bail on charges he shot Clay eight times inside the rock house in a dispute apparently stemming from the BMW.
An exact motive for the shooting is unclear. But Deputy District Attorney Bill Hodgeman said Bridges had threatened to kill Clay prior to the shooting because authorities had impounded the BMW while Clay was driving it.
Clay survived the attack. Prosecutors said Clay was a bodyguard for the man who operated the rock house, where Bridges had been staying and allegedly buying cocaine.
The defense concedes that Bridges shot Clay, but said he should not be charged with attempted murder because he was under the influence of cocaine at the time of the shooting.
Clay testified at a preliminary hearing in March that Bridges shot him during a drug-induced fit of violence at the culmination of a six-week drug binge in which the actor was free-basing cocaine every day.
Bridges faces a May 19 pre-trial hearing in the attempted murder case.
An actor since the age of six, Bridges played Gary Coleman's older brother Willis on 'Diff'rent Strokes' from 1978 until 1986.