DA declines felony charges against Chappelle attacker
The man accused of attacking comedian Dave Chappelle on stage at the Hollywood Bowl while carrying a replica gun that contained a switchblade was charged Thursday with four misdemeanor counts — after Los Angeles County prosecutors declined to pursue any felony charges.
Isaiah Lee, 23, was charged instead by the Los Angeles City Attorney’s Office with single misdemeanor counts 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.
“This alleged attack has got to have consequences,” City Attorney Mike Feuer said in a video statement announcing the charges.
Feuer — a candidate for Los Angeles mayor — added, “My office takes protecting public safety extremely seriously and we are going to vigorously prosecute this case.”
Earlier Thursday, the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office announced that it would not file any felony charges against Lee
“After reviewing the evidence, prosecutors determined that while criminal conduct occurred, the evidence as presented did not constitute felony conduct,” according to a statement from the District Attorney’s Office.
The office opted to refer the case to the City Attorney’s Office, which handles misdemeanor prosecutions.
Lee, who was initially booked on suspicion of assault with a deadly weapon, remains jailed in lieu of $30,000 bail. According to jail records, he is expected to appear in court for arraignment Friday morning in downtown Los Angeles.
If convicted of all counts, Lee could face up to 18 months in county jail and/or up to $4,000 in fines, according to the City Attorney’s Office.
Authorities said Lee rushed the stage at the Bowl around 10:45 p.m. Tuesday 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 being placed on a gurney and taken away in an ambulance.
Chappelle quickly regained his composure and continued performing. He joked, “It was a trans man,” a reference to controversy surrounding some of Chappelle’s jokes in a previous Netflix special that some condemned as transphobic. Chappelle also thanked Foxx for helping to subdue the suspect.
The attack was eerily reminiscent of actor Will Smith’s assault of comedian Chris Rock during this year’s Oscar ceremony. Smith walked on stage at the Dolby Theatre and smacked Rock in the face after Rock made a joke about Smith’s wife, Jada Pinkett Smith.
Rock, who performed earlier in the show Tuesday night, came on the Hollywood Bowl stage after the assault on Chappelle and joked, “Was that Will Smith?”
It was unclear how the suspect was able to carry a weapon into the venue.
The Los Angeles Philharmonic Association, which oversees the Bowl, declined to comment extensively on the incident, issuing a statement saying, “The safety of our artists, visitors and staff is the LA Phil’s top priority. The incident that occurred at the Hollywood Bowl on May 3, 2022, remains an active investigation, and we are unable to comment further at this time.”
On Instagram, Lee goes by the moniker “Noname_Trapper,” which is the name of a rapper whose work includes a 2020 song titled “Dave Chappelle.” Lee posted a short video on Instagram on Tuesday, saying nothing but showing him wearing the same hooded sweatshirt in which he is pictured wearing while handcuffed to the paramedics’ gurney Tuesday night after the attack. Lee says nothing on the short video, but 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.
Tuesday’s attack occurred on the final night of a four-night engagement of Chappelle and fellow performers at the Bowl as part of the Netflix Is A Joke Festival.
Carla Sims, a representative for Chappelle, issued a statement Wednesday calling the attack “unfortunate and unsettling,” but said the comedian was not letting it mar the overall series of performances.
“Dave Chappelle celebrated four nights of comedy and music, setting record-breaking sales for a comedian at the Hollywood Bowl,” according to Sims. “This run ties Chappelle with Monty Python for the most headlined shows by any comedian at the Hollywood Bowl, reaching 70k fans of diverse backgrounds during the first Netflix Is A Joke: The Festival, and he refuses to allow last night’s incident to overshadow the magic of this historic moment.”
Netflix issued a statement saying, “We care deeply about the safety of creators and we strongly defend the right of stand-up comedians to perform on stage without fear of violence.”
The attack, coming weeks after Will Smith’s assault of Rock at the Oscars, has renewed concerns of violence directed against comedians as they perform.
Jamie Masada, owner of the Laugh Factory in Hollywood, announced Wednesday he will begin a fund-raising effort to “help stop violence in America.”
“People need to band together, as they have for numerous other causes, to repel violence in our society and dissuade others from acting selfishly and violently,” he said in a statement. “If we let violence win and don’t show our support, then comedy dies.”
The club posted a message on its marquee featuring a photo of Chappelle and proclaiming “Protect our comics! Protect our First Amendment!”
Club officials said the venue is beefing up security to protect performers, and will begin using metal detectors for guests. The security upgrades were already in the planning stages, but were advanced due to the attacks on Chappelle and Rock.