Comedian Dave Chappelle is unhappy that the man who attacked while he performed on stage has been given a slap on the wrist, legally speaking, and charged with a misdemeanor rather than a more serious felony charge.
Isaiah Lee, pleaded not guilty to four misdemeanor counts at his arraignment on Friday during which the Los Angeles District Attorney’s Office declined to issue felony charges in the incident.
He faces just 18 months in jail if convicted.
‘It’s a travesty of justice that DA [George] Gascòn is refusing to prosecute this case as a felony,’ Gabriel Colwell, Chappelle’s attorney told the New York Post.
‘The City Attorney, who filed the case, is doing his job but DA Gascón should also do his job and charge this as a felony.
Comedian Dave Chappelle is said to be unhappy that the man who was arrested after he was attacked while he performed on stage has been given a slap on the wrist and charged with a misdemeanor rather than a more serious felony charge
Isaiah Lee, 23, (right) appeared in court on Friday and pleaded not guilty to misdemeanor charges for attacking comedian Dave Chappelle
Lee had allegedly jumped on stage and tried to attack Chappelle, who was able to sidestep his attacker and avoid injury. Lee had been carrying a knife and inside a replica gun
‘This was a violent assault that was perpetrated on an unsuspecting entertainer while he was giving a show in front of thousands of people at the historic Hollywood Bowl.
‘Entertainers in LA need to know this is a justice system that will protect them. There is no question here that when someone is violently assaulted by another in possession of a deadly weapon that it should be charged as a felony,’ he added.
Lee, 23, was slapped with four misdemeanor crimes including battery, possession of a weapon with intent to assault, unauthorized access to the stage area during a performance and commission of an act that delays the event or interferes with the performer. He faces 18 months in count jail if convicted and a $4,000 fine.
However, he may get away with a far lighter penalty if convicted which could be in the form of treatment or some kind of educational class.
Lee appeared in court with a bandaged arm in a sling as he pleaded not guilty. He is currently being held on $30,000 lease.
A judge also ordered Lee to stay at least 100 yards away from Chapelle, any venue where he is performing and from his residence, as well as to stay 100 yards away from the Hollywood Bowl.
Greg Risling, a spokesman with the LA County DA’s Office, attempted to explain why Lee was not given felony charges – and it appeared to be on a technicality.
‘Our office also could not charge Mr Lee with a felony of carrying a concealed weapon. Filing that charge would only be allowed if the blade is locked in an open position. It does not appear that Mr Lee opened the knife at any time during this incident,’ said Risling.
‘We evaluated the possibility of filing other charges as well, but found the evidence did not meet the statutory criteria for any felony offense. All misdemeanor matters within the city of Los Angeles are referred to the City Attorney’s Office for filing consideration.
‘It would be unethical to charge someone with a felony when the elements of the statute are not met.’
Lee, ran on stage at the Hollywood Bowl yielding a knife that was hidden inside a replica gun as he attempted to tackle Chappelle, 48.
The comedian was able to sidestep Lee and was unharmed. The attacker was then arrested at the scene, and taken to hospital with a broken arm.
Lee, 23, was slapped with four misdemeanor crimes including battery, possession of a weapon with intent to assault, unauthorized access to the stage area during a performance and commission of an act that delays the event or interferes with the performer. He faces 18 months in count jail if convicted.
A judge also ordered Lee to stay at least 100 yards away from Chapelle, any venue where he is performing and from his residence, as well as to stay 100 yards away from the Hollywood Bowl
Lee suffered a broken arm after security arrested him and took him off stage
At Friday’s court hearing, Lee’s attorney said the the man never brandished his concealed weapon at any time when he stormed the stage.
Lee is due back in court for a pretrial hearing on May 20.
Chappelle has not yet publicly reacted to the decision, but during a comedy show on Thursday night, the comedian revealed that he has spoken with the attacker.
Chappelle said that he asked police whether he could speak to Lee, who had stormed onto the stage holding a replica gun with a knife attached. Police granted him access to a room where he was being held.
‘I needed to talk to him,’ Chappelle told his audience at LA’s Comedy Store’s secret 70-chair room the Belly Room on Thursday night, according to The Hollywood Reporter.
Chappelle said that the attack was down to Lee’s grandmother from Brooklyn, who was forced out of her neighborhood because of gentrification, and the stunt was meant to draw attention to the issue.
He joked about the situation alongside fellow comedian Chris Rock, who was slapped by Will Smith during the Oscars ceremony, stating: ‘At least you got smacked by someone of repute! I got smacked by a homeless guy with leaves in his hair.’
Chappelle also joked that his attacker was a transgender man, a reference to his Netflix special The Closure which sparked woke fury over his gags about transgender people and support for JK Rowling.
The author has been castigated for insisting that transgender women should not be given access to some single-sex spaces including changing rooms and women’s prisons for safety reasons.
On Wednesday, Chapelle said via a representative that he did not want the incident to ‘overshadow’ a great event, referencing his Netflix comedy show.
‘Dave Chappelle celebrated four nights of comedy and music, setting record-breaking sales for a comedian at the Hollywood Bowl….and he refuses to allow last night’s incident to overshadow the magic of this historic moment.’
‘As unfortunate and unsettling as the incident was, Chappelle went on with the show,’ his rep said.
Netflix and the Hollywood Bowl said they were cooperating with the police investigation into what happened.
The 23-year-old was taken into custody at the event, then was taken to the hospital. He is now in jail
This is the weapon Lee had when he tried and attack Chappelle on stage
Lee faces only misdemeanor charges over the attack after woke Los Angeles District Attorney George Gascon said he would not pursue felony charges against him.
Gascon’s office – which is famously in favor of low-or-no-cash-bonds – thing not to pursue the most serious line of punishment over the concealed weapon.
Instead, they have referred the case to the LA City Attorney Mike Feuer, recommending a misdemeanor charge because ‘the evidence as presented did not constitute felony conduct,’ according to ABC.
When announcing the charges on Thursday, Los Angeles City Attorney Mike Feuer seemed to throw shade at the DA, saying ‘My office takes protecting public safety extremely seriously.’
Los Angeles District Attorney George Gascon (pictured) failed not to pursue felony charges against Lee, who now only faces misdemeanor charges for the attack on Chappelle
Gascon has been vocal about his belief that the criminal justice system needs to focus more on intervention and rehabilitation, blasting ‘tough on crime’ policies as racist and a failure.
And following his first 100 days in office, he touted the changes he has made to the city’s justice system – including limiting the use of sentencing enhancements.
The California penal code has more than 100 enhancements that could add time to a convict’s sentence depending on the situation, most of which date back to when California was facing soaring crime in the 1980s and 1990s.
But under Gascon’s reign, the use of those enhancements have been greatly reduced, with the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office 5,138 enhancements during his first three months – a 71 percent drop when compared to the same time the year before.
His first three months also saw prosecutors filing only 106 gun enhancements – an 85 percent decrease.
Gascon also barred prosecutors from charging juveniles as adults, regardless of the severity of their alleged crimes.