After being attacked on stage while performing at the Hollywood Bowl in Los Angeles last week, Dave Chappelle was not happy to hear the man who tackled him was only being charged with a misdemeanor. He and his lawyer, Gabriel Colwell, urged Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascón to rethink his decision and charge his attacker Isaiah Lee with a felony.
“We request that DA Gascón reconsider, correct this mistake and charge this as a felony,” Colwell told Rolling Stone. “Entertainers in Los Angeles need to know that the justice system will protect them on stage.”
On May 3, while Chappelle was performing a stand-up set at the Hollywood Bowl as part of the Netflix Is a Joke comedy festival, Lee stormed the stage and tackled the comedian. He was stopped by security as he ran off stage and was arrested. It was later discovered that while it was not used, Lee was carrying a replica gun that can eject a knife blade.
Lee pled not guilty to “misdemeanor battery, misdemeanor possession of a deadly weapon with intent to assault and two violations related to storming the stage and interfering with a performance.”
Per Variety, Gascón responded in a speech on Tuesday, saying: “We have city prosecutors that handle misdemeanors, they have the jurisdiction. Mr. Chappelle’s case was reviewed by one of our deputies in our filing team and she made the right decision when she determined that the conduct in this particular case was misdemeanor conduct.”
Because Chappelle wasn’t physically injured and Lee was considered unarmed, since the blade was folded during the attack, the DA concluded “[Mr. Lee’s] behavior under California law did not, and I repeat, did not amount to felony conduct.” Prosecutors also investigated if Lee had been stalking Chappelle, which apparently, he wasn’t.
Chappelle’s attack is the latest high-profile example of venue security failing to protect performers and guests. Citing the Astroworld Festival tragedy in Houston, the DA noted the county is “increasingly concerned that we’ll have a similar situation.” He continued: “As one of the capitals of entertainment, we have to do better.”
What most people do not understand is that venue security is mostly provided by private companies. The Hollywood Bowl hires a security company for events and it’s on the company to provide the proper amount of people to keep things safe. And like any business, every company has its own standards. Therefore, procedures at the Hollywood Bowl may be different from those at SoFi Stadium. Short of a law outlining specific rules for venue and event security, there’s not much the DA’s office can do to change things at the moment.