Los Angeles D.A. declines to file charges against Chappelle attacker

(Photo by Matt Sayles/Invision/AP)

Los Angeles District Attorney George Gascon is already facing the distinct possibility of a recall election over his soft-on-crime policies, and I doubt this is going to be helpful to his defense. The liberal prosecutor has declined to file felony charges against the man who assaulted comedian Dave Chappelle during a performance at the Hollywood Bowl earlier this week after concluding that the actions did not rise to the level of a felony offense.

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.”

I’m sure that Feuer, who’s a longtime anti-gun activist, will be happy to soak up the press attention that he’ll get for prosecuting Lee, who allegedly had a replica handgun that disguised a knife blade in his hand as he rushed the stage and tackled Chappelle on Tuesday evening. But should his office really be the one to handle this case? The misdemeanor charges aren’t likely to result in much time behind bars if Lee is convicted, and honestly, if his victim weren’t a celebrity the odds of him avoiding jail entirely would be in his favor.

According to the Los Angeles Times, Gascon’s office declined to pursue felony charges because while Lee had a weapon on him, he never had the chance to use it on his target, and since Chappelle wasn’t injured, the crime didn’t rise to the level of a felony assault with a deadly weapon regardless of Lee’s intentions.

This is a pretty high-profile example of Gascon’s alleged leniency towards criminal defendants, and it comes as the organizers of the recall campaign against the prosecutor announced they’ve hit a milestone in their efforts to gather enough signatures to get the recall on the ballot this fall.

Today, the Recall DA George Gascon campaign announced it has collected over 400,000 signatures as of May 1st, with thousands more being turned in daily.  The recall campaign has now raised over $6 million to support the effort.   To get the recall on the ballot, the campaign must collect 566,857 signatures from registered Los Angeles County voters (10% of the total current registered voters). The deadline for submission to the Registrar is July 6, 2022.    “We are starting to see light at the end of the tunnel – there is a legitimate pathway to qualifying the recall by the July 6th deadline if we do not let up.”

The recall campaign might want canvass for signatures outside some of the comedy clubs in L.A. and ask patrons, employees, and comedians to sign on after Gascon’s decision, because while it might be legally defensible, it’s likely to be pretty unpopular at a time when crime continues to surge in Los Angeles and many residents say they feel increasingly unsafe.