LA’s treatment of Dave Chappelle’s attacker encourages crime

LA’s treatment of Dave Chappelle’s attacker encourages crime

Dave Chappelle was finishing his set for Netflix Is a Joke at the Hollywood Bowl in Los Angeles when a man in the audience, Isaiah Lee, jumped onto the stage and attacked him. In his possession was a jackknife, a deadly weapon.

I don’t know about you, but it looks like a premeditated, criminal act to me. The Los Angeles police saw it that way and charged the perpetrator.

How did LA District Attorney George Gascón handle the incident? As we expected, not good. Gascón ruled that Lee’s assault – a premeditated, albeit foiled, assault with a weapon – was a misdemeanor.

The maximum sentence Lee can receive on these charges is 18 months in prison and a $4,000 fine. He is being held on $30,000 bail. Faced with such a low threshold for getting out of prison, Chappelle’s attorney, Gabriel Crowell, asked the judge for a restraining order. It was granted – 100 feet.

Lee pleaded not guilty to these lesser charges. His court-appointed attorney is asking for restorative rehabilitation, not jail time. If this weren’t a high-profile case, he might have gotten the requested jail release card.

The reasoning provided by Gascón’s office is tormented, and reflects the mental habit currently plaguing Los Angelenos: Chappelle was not hurt; While Lee stormed the stage and attacked Chappelle, he didn’t swing the gun. Under such circumstances – captured on tape – Gascon’s office could not “ethically” charge Lee with a crime, even though Lee knowingly evaded security and brought a deadly weapon to a public event. And while he didn’t draw the gun on Chappelle, he did attempt it in the ensuing scuffle with security forces, which could explain the assailant’s broken arm.

Isaiah Lee, who allegedly assaulted comedian Dave Chappelle on stage, has been charged with less than two years in prison.
LA District Attorney George Gascón argued Isaiah Lee’s alleged assault on Dave Chappelle was a minor misdemeanor.

Another reason for Gascón’s leniency? His office said there was no evidence that Lee had previously had animosity towards Chappelle. For real?

Lee has a rap video showing him standing on the hood of a police car — reminiscent of the Black Lives Matter riots — in a track titled “Chapell.” But Gascón says a review of the texts has revealed nothing threatening. I’m surprised he hasn’t denied a connection either because Lee didn’t spell Chappelle’s name correctly.

Rolling Stone uncovered the most plausible motive: Lee’s brother Aaron says Isaiah has mental health issues, is homeless, and developed many friendships and a concern for the trans community in LA’s homeless shelters — a community desperate to unseat Chappelle. “Yeah, it could definitely have been a factor,” Aaron said.

Comedy and free speech are dying on legal calls like these. Gascón’s decision is a snitch for today’s John Hinckleys to commit violence and fuels our species’ natural thirst for vigilantism. “Don’t do the crime if you can’t find the time” loses its meaning.

In fact, Gascón offers a legal incentive to commit crimes. Incentives are very important. It’s common sense 101: if you want less of something, tax it. If you don’t tax it, expect more of it. As comedian Howie Mandel said, “You saw what happened at the Oscars and I thought that just triggers – violence breeds violence. And I think that’s the beginning of the end of the comedy.”

Los Angeles District Attorney George Gascon
LA District Attorney George Gascón accelerated Los Angeles’ crime problem by providing legal incentives for attacks.
Carolyn Cole/Los Angeles Times/Shutterstock

And not just comedy. Unbridled violence undermines the conditions of civilized life. The application of the law should be blind to status, race, gender, etc. To be fair to Gascón, his negligence is an equal opportunity: All LA citizens feel vulnerable — because they are. Whether white, black, Asian or comedic, they all face ongoing, legally motivated attacks.

In the 1980s, Tom Wolfe’s novel The Bonfire of Vanity captured the logic of bad public decisions that destroy the conditions of civilized life. Now that bonfire logic is back, and not just in Los Angeles. New York City – Wolfe’s stage for his masterpiece – San Francisco, Portland and Chicago are all on fire.

What can be expected when criminal offenses are treated as administrative offences? Other crimes.

Actor and comedian Dave Chappelle
Comedians like Dave Chappelle are targeted by radicals when attackers like Isaiah Lee get a slap in the face.
Evan Agostini/Invision/AP, file

What should you expect when you announce you won’t be prosecuting thefts under $900? A “petty crime” epidemic that is shutting down businesses and undermining security for civilized living.

There are limits to good intentions. The law cannot give virtue to vice, industry to idleness, knowledge to ignorance, and liberty to the lawless. These fruits must be earned and protected by laws and incentives.

A generation ago, the New York bonfire was extinguished by a return to common sense and policies that reflected it. Given the positive results, other cities followed suit. The good news is we know how to put out the fire. We have, at least so far, refused to do so in order to “rethink” society – but that daydream has become a living nightmare. Now we have to wake up.

A good first step? Los Angeles, don’t undercriminalize this psycho. Accuse Isaiah Lee of being the felon he is – and throw the book at him.

Guy Shepherd is the editor of Planned Man.

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