The man who allegedly attacked Dave Chappelle while the comedian was onstage in Hollywood at Netflix comedy festival this week will reportedly not face any felony charges for the incident. The LA County D.A.’s office released a statement today, stating that “After reviewing the evidence, prosecutors determined that while criminal conduct occurred, the evidence as presented did not constitute felony conduct.” The man behind the attack, Isiah Lee, was arrested and booked on the charge of assault with a deadly weapon. Lee was carrying a switchblade-style knife shaped like a replica gun when he rushed the stage.
There are a lot of questions and seeming gray areas that are loaded into this incident. The attack on Chappelle went viral on social media largely due to the visible (and gross) physical injuries Lee suffered, after Chappelle’s security team pulled the assailant off the comedian and dragged him backstage.
What happened backstage is unclear: Chappelle made jokes about stomping out his attacker, as well as the fact that he’s rolling with serious security ever since his contentious Netflix special “The Closer” sparked major backlash from LGBTQ+ groups and their advocates. It also been reported that other famous celebrities could’ve retaliated against Lee – though Chappelle and others have downplayed such claims.
That said, Isiah Lee has photos of him with his bloodied, battered, with his arm bent at an impossible angle. While the court of public opinion may have already ordained it to be a righteous butt-whupping, it will be interesting to see if the actual legal system agrees.
Chappelle has already had to do a little backtracking, after he made jokes onstage following the incident stating that Busta Rhymes, Jamie Foxx, and even Jon Stewart helped him beatdown Lee backstage. Chappelle has since clarified that those were all just jokes he made in attempt to get the show back on track – and probably to avoid implicating his friends in what could become a legitimate legal dispute.
The societal discussion surrounding this incident has also touched upon the question of whether or not the incident at the 2022 Oscars – with Will Smith slapping Chris Rock onstage over a joke – had any bearing on what happened to Chappelle. Immediately after Rock got slapped, a lot of comedians openly wondered whether or not floodgates had been opened other comics having to face similar aggression from audience members.
So far, the resulting consequences for attacking comedians doesn’t really seem like much of a deterrent…