The office of controversial Los Angeles District Attorney George Gascon declined to charge the armed suspect who charged comedian Dave Chappelle while he was performing earlier this week, instead opting to indict the man on four misdemeanor charges.
“After reviewing the evidence, prosecutors determined that while criminal conduct occurred, the evidence as presented did not constitute felony conduct,” his office said in a statement. “The District Attorney’s Office does not prosecute misdemeanor crimes within the city of Los Angeles.”
The Los Angeles City Attorney’s office charged him with one count of battery, one count of possessing a deadly weapon with intent to assault, one count of unauthorized access to the stage area during a performance, and another count for the commission of an act that delays the event or interferes with the performer.
On Friday, alleged attacker Isaiah Lee, 23, entered a not guilty plea during a Friday court appearance. His bond was reportedly set at $30,000.
Lee was initially charged with a felony count of assault with a deadly weapon during Chappelle’s routine on Tuesday evening during the “Netflix Is A Joke Fest.” Officials said that Lee was armed with a replica handgun that had a knife blade attached.
According to a statement from the Los Angeles Police Department, Lee “produced what was later discovered to be a replica handgun and pointed the item at the victim.” Then, the suspect tackled Chappelle before security intervened.
Video footage uploaded online appeared to capture the incident, showing him knocking Chappelle to the ground. Reports said that Lee was hospitalized after sustaining injuries during the melee.
Gascon’s decision not to file felony charges against Lee triggered even more criticism against the embattled elected official. A petition has garnered hundreds of thousands of signatures to recall him.
Since taking office, Gascon has faced criticism from conservatives and police groups, who have accused him of adopting far-left bail reform and sentencing guidelines that have triggered a surge of violent crime across Los Angeles.
“Anyone who arms themselves with a deadly weapon, in this case a knife, and violently attacks an innocent person, famous or not, should be charged accordingly,” Deputy District Attorney Jon Hatami was quoted by the New York Post as saying in criticizing Lee’s charges.
“With only a misdemeanor charge, the person could be released soon, with only a slap on the wrist,” he added. “That fails to provide justice to the victim, accountability for this person’s actions, and safety to the general public. These concepts, however, like public safety and justice, that most of us value, are concepts George Gascon can care less about.”
However, charging Lee with a felony depends on whether the knife was real or fake, as well as other factors, experts say.
“If the knife was metal, it could’ve been the basis for a felony assault with a deadly weapon,” Steve Cooley, who was the Los Angeles County district attorney for more than a decade, told the Post. “If it was just rubber, then you have a different kettle of fish. They also have to consider if the assailant had access to the weapon at the time he knocked Chappelle over. If he didn’t have access to it at the time, it’s probably not a felony, but a misdemeanor battery.”