Surprise: Gascon charges Chappelle attacker with felony, but ...

Surprise: Gascon charges Chappelle attacker with felony, but ...
Bryan Chan/County of Los Angeles via AP

Looks like Isaiah Lee will face felony prosecution after all, but not over his on-stage attack of comedian Dave Chappelle. Embattled Los Angeles DA George Gascón refused to take that case, claiming that the presence of a switchblade knife didn’t raise the battery to a felony level, and referred it back for misdemeanor prosecution. Chappelle was reportedly none too happy with Gascon’s decision, and neither were the people who want Gascon recalled.

Well, we have good news today for Chappelle and his allies. Gascon will charge Lee with a felony after all. It just has nothing to do with Chappelle. Or at least nothing directly to do with the comedian, anyway:

The man who allegedly attacked comedian Dave Chappelle onstage at the Hollywood Bowl earlier this month has been charged with attempted murder for allegedly stabbing his roommate in December.

Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascón said in a press release Thursday that the new charges against Isaiah Lee, 23, stem from a December 2 incident in which he allegedly stabbed his roommate during a fight at a transitional housing apartment.

“As a result of media reports about the Chappelle case,” Gascón stated, “the victim recently identified Lee as the person who committed the assault he had previously reported to police.”

Isn’t that convenient for Gascón. Even a rookie public defender will have a field day ripping apart that victim identification in the absence of any other evidence tying Lee to the December assault. When you credit media publicity for a suspect ID, you’d better make sure you have lots of forensics on your side. If all they have is a victim ID based on TV coverage of an assault on a beloved celebrity, well …

If they have more than that, then how did Lee get missed in the original investigation? Even a transitional housing facility would keep track of who lives there at certain times. A fight with a roommate wouldn’t exactly be the crime of the century, after all. It seems odd that Gascón’s office and the police wouldn’t have at least suspected Lee of the December 2 assault and/or have asked the victim about the identity and appearance of his roommates. Why would it have taken Lee’s beaten face on TV — and Chappelle’s angry reaction to Gascón’s decision to dump the case on the city attorney — to make the connection for investigators?

Lee may well be guilty of both crimes, but if I were his attorney, I’d want to brush up on all of the synonyms possible for “patsy.” That’s especially true with the recall effort against Gascón getting as close to success as it is. In LA, it doesn’t take much for defense attorneys to sell jurors on corrupt police and prosecutors, even when it’s not true. Just ask OJ Simpson and the Kardashians.

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