LOS ANGELES – The man accused of attacking comedian Dave Chappelle on stage this month at the Hollywood Bowl pleaded not guilty Thursday to attempted murder for allegedly stabbing his roommate at a transitional housing apartment last December.
The latest case against Isaiah Lee, filed Wednesday, charges the 23- year-old man with attempted murder in connection with his roommate’s stabbing during a Dec. 2 fight, according to the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office.
As a result of media reports about the alleged attack on Chappelle, the alleged victim recently identified Lee as the person who committed the attack that he had previously reported to police, according to the District Attorney’s Office.
“The publicity generated by the attack on Mr. Chappelle helped police solve this crime,” District Attorney George Gascón said in a written statement announcing the latest charge against Lee. “The incident that occurred at the Hollywood Bowl was misdemeanor conduct and rightfully referred to the City Attorney’s Office.”
The county’s top prosecutor said Lee is now facing the felony charge as result of the “nature and severity of the December attack.”
Lee has remained behind bars since his May 3 arrest by Los Angeles police in connection with the alleged attack on Chappelle, with a judge refusing last week to lower his bail.
Lee was charged May 5 by the Los Angeles City Attorney’s Office with one misdemeanor count each 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.
According to the Los Angeles Police Department, the suspect was in possession of a replica handgun equipped with a retractable knife blade.
The District Attorney’s Office issued a statement saying, “After reviewing the evidence, prosecutors determined that while criminal conduct occurred, the evidence as presented did not constitute felony conduct.”
According to an internal review of the case, prosecutors noted that Chappelle was not injured in the attack and Lee did not have the weapon in his hand at the time. They noted that the switchblade was never extended during the attack, and there was no sign Lee held any actual animosity toward the comedian.
Authorities said Lee rushed the stage at the Bowl around 10:45 p.m. May 3 while Chappelle was performing as part of the Netflix Is A Joke Festival. Online video showed Chappelle being thrown to the ground by the suspect, prompting the venue’s security staff and Chappelle’s crew to rush on stage to subdue the assailant. Among those running to protect Chappelle was actor/comedian Jamie Foxx.
The suspect tried to scramble backstage after the attack, but he was forcefully subdued by security. Subsequent footage showed the bloodied assailant with facial bruises and a seemingly broken arm being placed on a gurney and taken away in an ambulance.
Chappelle was not injured and he continued to perform.
Lee was initially booked on suspicion of felony assault with a deadly weapon, but the District Attorney’s Office declined to file any felony charges, referring the case to the City Attorney’s Office for consideration of misdemeanor counts.
Chappelle’s attorney, Gabriel Colwell, subsequently blasted the District Attorney’s Office decision to decline any felony charges.
“It’s a travesty of justice that Gascón is refusing to prosecute this case as a felony,” Colwell told the New York Post. “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.
“… Entertainers in L.A. 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.”
Colwell echoed those comments to Rolling Stone magazine, telling the publication: “This is what Mr. Chappelle wants. Mr. Chappelle wants this case charged as a felony. … Ten thousand people saw Dave Chappelle assaulted on stage at the Hollywood Bowl last Tuesday night, and the assailant had a deadly weapon on him. The fact that this isn’t charged as a felony case by the DA is insane.”
On Instagram, Lee goes by the moniker “Noname_Trapper,” an aspiring rapper whose work includes a 2020 song titled “Dave Chappelle.” Lee posted a short video on Instagram on the day of the attack, saying nothing but showing him wearing the same hooded sweatshirt in which he is pictured wearing while handcuffed to the paramedics’ gurney after the attack. He used a video filter showing himself with devil-like horns on his head and blood trickling from his nose — also similar to the blood seen on his face following his detainment at the Bowl.
Chappelle, during a subsequent performance at the Comedy Store in Hollywood, told the crowd he was able to speak to the attacker before he was taken away by paramedics. The comedian said the suspect claimed to have carried out the attack to raise awareness of the plight of his grandmother in Brooklyn, who was displaced from her home due to “gentrification.”
Lee — who has been ordered to remain at least 100 yards away from Chappelle, the Hollywood Bowl and any venue where Chappelle is performing if he does manage to post bail and is released from custody — is due back in a downtown Los Angeles courtroom Friday for a pretrial hearing on the misdemeanor case involving the alleged attack on Chappelle.
A June 2 hearing is set to determine whether there is sufficient evidence to require him to stand trial on the attempted murder charge, according to the District Attorney’s Office.
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