Question of Blame

UPDATED 05/29/2000 at 01:00 AM EDT Originally published 05/29/2000 at 01:00 AM EDT

Halle Berry hoped she was finally putting the whole mess behind her on May 10, when she stood up to face the judge in Los Angeles Superior Court. With a bandage covering a cut on her forehead that had required 22 stitches, Berry, 33, pleaded no contest to a misdemeanor charge of leaving the scene of a Feb. 23 accident, in which she collided with another motorist at 2:30 a.m. and then promptly drove home. The day after her court appearance, Berry, who says she has no memory of the crash, told Today, "I feel like I have a very defensible reason for leaving, because of my head injury, which put me in a state of mind that did not make me responsible in that moment." Adds her spokesman Allan Mayer: "I don't think we'll be seeing Halle Berry in court anymore."

Not so fast, says Heta Raythatha, whose 1996 Pontiac Sunfire was totaled when the rented Chevy Blazer driven by Berry—through a red light, Raythatha claims—plowed into her at a Sunset Boulevard intersection. "I'm very disappointed," says Raythatha, who says that she believed Berry was going to plead guilty. (A no-contest plea carries the same weight as conviction in California courts but allows the accused to avoid admitting wrongdoing.) "She left me in a smoking car wreck, and I am so skeptical of the stories she's coming up with." Raythatha, 28, is suing Berry for her role in the accident, which left the Santa Monica real estate agent and part-time accountant with a fractured wrist and back and neck injuries.

Berry, who was also sued in connection with a minor 1997 accident before that case was dropped, was sentenced to three years' probation and a $13,500 fine. The star of the summer sci-fi film X-Men has nothing more to say about the matter, according to Mayer. But Raythatha's lawyer Richard Lloyd Sherman says Berry's interviews on Today and 20/20 have opened up areas he wants to explore. In a civil action, he maintains, "the power of cross-examination is a wonderful thing."

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