The man accused of tackling Dave Chappelle onstage at the Hollywood Bowl two weeks ago is facing an unrelated attempted murder charge for the alleged stabbing of his roommate at a transitional housing complex back on Dec. 2, prosecutors said Thursday.
Isaiah Lee, 23, quickly pleaded not guilty to the new charge and is set to return to court June 2, according to the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office.
“The publicity generated by the attack on Mr. Chappelle helped police solve this crime,” Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascón said in a statement Thursday. “The incident that occurred at the Hollywood Bowl was misdemeanor conduct and rightfully referred to the City Attorney’s Office. Based on the nature and severity of the December attack, Mr. Lee is now facing felony charges which my office will prosecute.”
Gascón faced criticism from Chappelle’s camp earlier this month after his office declined to file felony charges against Lee for storming the stage during the Netflix Is a Joke festival at the Hollywood Bowl and taking the comedian to the ground while in possession of a replica gun housing a switchblade. The DA said because the knife was folded at the time and Chappelle wasn’t injured, the case didn’t rise to the level of felony conduct. It was referred to the Los Angeles City Attorney’s Office instead, where prosecutors quickly filed charges of misdemeanor battery and misdemeanor possession of a deadly weapon with intent to assault as well as two violations related to storming the stage and interfering with a performance.
“We request that DA Gascón reconsider, correct this mistake and charge this as a felony,” Chappelle’s lawyer Gabriel Colwell told Rolling Stone shortly after Lee pleaded not guilty in the Chappelle case. “This is what Mr. Chappelle wants. Mr. Chappelle wants this case charged as a felony.”
The lawyer said it’s not just about his client. “Entertainers in Los Angeles need to know that the justice system will protect them on stage,” he said.
“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,” Colwell, a partner at Squire Patton Boggs, said.
According to the DA, it was only after Lee tackled Chappelle and then ran backstage that he allegedly reached in his waistband for the weapon, which was knocked out of his hands by a security guard.
Lee appeared in court May 6 wearing a quilted blue protective vest and waist shackle. His right arm was bandaged and in a sling as he stood silently behind a partition. His public defender, Chelsea Padilla, entered his not guilty plea on his behalf and said he suffered a “broken arm and significant facial injuries” in the backstage melee.
Los Angeles City Attorney Henrico Bautista revealed in court that Padilla’s motion to seal the arraignment included claims Lee has an undisclosed “mental health condition” and is receiving “mental health treatment.” Bautista said Lee “reached into his waistband and tried to use a folding knife” after he “charged a vulnerable victim onstage who was not expecting it.”
Lee’s brother, Aaron Lee, previously told Rolling Stone that Lee has been in and out of homeless shelters in Los Angeles in recent years and has struggled with his mental health.
“He does take psych medicine, and that probably was a factor. And then maybe something triggered him acting like that. I don’t know,” Aaron Lee says. “He’s not the type of person to attack you for no reason. But if he’s not on his medication, and if he feels everyone is against him, maybe that’s it.”