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Dave Chappelle's Lawyer Releases Statement After Prosecutor Declines Pursuing Case As A Felony Following His Hollywood Bowl Attack

The comedy world and public at large took notice when Dave Chappelle was attacked at the Hollywood Bowl last week. The 48-year-old comedian was finishing a set when a man, who was reportedly carrying a replica handgun that had a knife blade in it, rushed the stage and attacked him. The suspect was eventually subdued and arrested on suspicion of assault with a deadly weapon. It was later confirmed that he was hit with four misdemeanor charges but no felony charge. And based on a statement from Chappelle’s lawyer, the star isn’t too pleased that the prosecutor is pursuing the case without the latter charge. 

Dave Chappelle’s lawyer, Gabriel Colwell, says that the veteran comic is “upset” that Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascón has declined to proceed with the case as a felony. In the statement that he shared with The New York Post, Colwell declared that the DA should reconsider: 

It’s a travesty of justice that DA [George] Gascòn is refusing to prosecute this case as a felony. 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.

The attorney would go on to describe his account of the reported incident at the Hollywood Bowl and ultimately argued that it was a “violent assault.” When discussing the matter, George Gascón asserted that he could not charge the suspect, 23-year-old Isaiah Lee, based on what was glimpsed in the video footage from the event:

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. … It would be unethical to charge someone with a felony when the elements of the statute are not met.

The DA further explained that his office “evaluated the possibility of filing other charges,” yet the evidence they found “did not meet the statutory criteria for any felony offense.” Isaiah Lee has pleaded not guilty to those four misdemeanor charges. Following the incident, Dave Chappelle’s lawyer believes that LA-based performers need further protection so that situations like this don’t occur again:

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.

The topic of on-stage safety for performers, particularly for comedians, has seemingly been discussed quite a bit since this year’s Oscars, where Will Smith slapped Chris Rock after he made a joke about his wife. (Coincidentally, Rock was present and cracked a joke after Dave Chappelle was attacked.) In the aftermath of the Chappelle incident, other big names in comedy have chimed in. Kevin Hart said the situation was “not scary” and believes the fact that the suspect was quickly apprehended sends a message. Meanwhile, David Letterman joked about the matter while opening his own comedy show.

The Netflix-dominant Dave Chappelle has had other negative encounters with audience members in the past, with one attendee throwing a banana skin on stage during a set he did in 2015. In terms of this latest encounter, Chappelle discussed the incident during a low-key comedy show, where he thanked friends and fans for reaching out in the aftermath. Though he’s reportedly doing alright after the ordeal, his lawyer’s statement appears to suggest that we haven’t heard the last from him on this recent matter.

Erik Swann
Erik Swann

Covering superheroes, sci-fi, comedy, and almost anything else in film and TV. I eat more pizza than the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.