Gascón on Dave Chappelle attack: Suspect's behavior did not amount to felony conduct

"[The suspect's] behavior under California law did not, and I repeat, did not amount to felony conduct," said Gascón.

City News Service
Wednesday, May 11, 2022
Gascón defends decision not to pursue Chappelle attack as felony case
Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascón defended the decision not to pursue the attack on comedian Dave Chappelle as felony case, saying the suspect's behavior "did not amount to felony conduct.''

LOS ANGELES (CNS) -- Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascón defended the decision not to pursue the attack on comedian Dave Chappelle as felony case, saying the suspect's behavior "did not amount to felony conduct.''

Isaiah Lee, the man accused of tackling Chappelle on stage at the Hollywood Bowl a week ago, lost a bid Tuesday to have his $30,000 bail reduced.

His attorney, Chelsea Padilla, asked Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Armenui Amy Ashvanian to release the 23-year-old man on his own recognizance.

But the judge denied the request, noting that the defendant was able to "get on the stage" at the Hollywood Bowl despite the presence of security guards at the facility.

Another judge, Wendy Segall, had ordered Lee to remain jailed in lieu of $30,000 bail last week.

Lee -- who is due back in a downtown L.A. courtroom May 20 for a pretrial hearing --was ordered last Friday to remain at least 100 yards away from Chappelle, the Hollywood Bowl and any venue where Chappelle is performing if he does manage to post bail and is released from custody.

Lee was charged May 5 by the Los Angeles City Attorney's Office with one misdemeanor count each of 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 an event or interferes with a performer.

READ MORE: Dave Chappelle attack suspect ordered to stay away from comedian, held on $30K bail

Isaiah Lee, the suspect in the on-stage attack on Dave Chappelle, was ordered to stay away from the comedian and the Hollywood Bowl as he entered a not-guilty plea on Friday.

Lee was initially booked on suspicion of felony assault with a deadly weapon, but the Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office declined to file any felony charges, referring the case to the city attorney for consideration of misdemeanor counts.

Authorities said Lee rushed the stage at the Bowl around 10:45 p.m. May 3 while Chappelle was performing as part of the Netflix Is A Joke Festival.

Online video showed Chappelle being thrown to the ground by the suspect, prompting the venue's security staff and Chappelle's crew to rush on stage to subdue the assailant. Among those running to protect Chappelle was actor/comedian Jamie Foxx.

According to the Los Angeles Police Department, the suspect was in possession of a replica handgun equipped with a retractable knife blade. The LAPD circulated photos of the weapon Wednesday afternoon.

The suspect tried to scramble backstage after the attack, but he was forcefully subdued by security. Subsequent footage showed the bloodied assailant with facial bruises and a seemingly broken arm being placed on a gurney and taken away in an ambulance.

Chappelle was not injured and he continued to perform.

Over the weekend, Chappelle's attorney, Gabriel Colwell, blasted the District Attorney's Office decision to decline any felony charges in the case.

"It's a travesty of justice that Gascón is refusing to prosecute this case as a felony,'' Colwell told the New York Post on Friday.

"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.

"... Entertainers in L.A. 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.''

READ MORE: LA comedy clubs beef up security after man tackles Dave Chappelle on stage at Hollywood Bowl

The armed man who is accused of attacking Dave Chappelle on stage at the Hollywood Bowl is now facing several misdemeanor charges related to the incident.

Colwell echoed those comments to Rolling Stone magazine, telling the publication: "This is what Mr. Chappelle wants. Mr. Chappelle wants this case charged as a felony. ... Ten thousand people saw Dave Chappelle assaulted on stage at the Hollywood Bowl last Tuesday night, and the assailant had a deadly weapon on him. The fact that this isn't charged as a felony case by the DA is insane.''

The District Attorney's Office issued a statement last week saying, "After reviewing the evidence, prosecutors determined that while criminal conduct occurred, the evidence as presented did not constitute felony conduct.''

According to an internal review of the case, prosecutors noted that Chappelle was not injured in the attack and Lee did not have the weapon in his hand at the time. They noted that the switchblade was never extended during the attack, and there was no sign Lee held any actual animosity toward the comedian.

At a news conference Tuesday morning, Gascón defended the decision not to pursue a felony case, saying, "Clearly, Mr. Lee needs to be held accountable for his behavior. But his behavior under California law did not, and I repeat, did not amount to felony conduct.''

"Mr. Lee was not holding a weapon when he rushed Mr. Chappelle, and we can see that by the video and we also know that from the interviews with witnesses,'' he said. "Security quickly separated the two men and Mr. Chappelle was not injured.''

On Instagram, Lee goes by the moniker "Noname_Trapper,'' an aspiring rapper whose work includes a 2020 song titled "Dave Chappelle.''

Lee posted a short video on Instagram on the day of the attack, saying nothing but showing him wearing the same hooded sweatshirt in which he is pictured wearing while handcuffed to the paramedics' gurney after the attack.

He used a video filter showing himself with devil-like horns on his head and blood trickling from his nose -- also similar to the blood seen on his face following his detainment at the Bowl.

Chappelle, during a performance last week at the Comedy Store in Hollywood, told the crowd he was able to speak to the attacker before he was taken away by paramedics.

The comedian said the suspect claimed to have carried out the attack to raise awareness of the plight of his grandmother in Brooklyn, who was displaced from her home due to "gentrification."

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