The man accused of tackling Dave Chappelle onstage at the Hollywood Bowl is weighing an offer from prosecutors in his misdemeanor case and has made no claim of mental incompetency, Rolling Stone has learned.
Isaiah Lee, 23, appeared in custody at a Los Angeles courthouse Thursday, still wearing a cast on his right arm. He waved to a judge, saying, “Hello, your honor,” and agreed to a two-month delay of the probable cause hearing in his separate attempted murder case involving claims he stabbed a roommate at a transitional housing complex on Dec. 2.
Minutes later at a subsequent hearing in a different courtroom, Lee’s public defender on the Chappelle case, Chelsea Padilla, asked for a similar delay. She said her office wanted “to see if there’s a disposition in the felony matter which would potentially resolve (this case) as well.” When Deputy City Attorney Giselle Fernandez asked if Padilla planned to declare doubt as to Lee’s mental competency, the public defender replied, “Not at this time.”
“An offer has been extended by the City Attorney’s Office, but it hasn’t been accepted yet, and I believe they’re waiting to see what’s going on with the felony case,” Fernandez told Rolling Stone after the hearing. She declined to give details of the offer but added, “It’s an important case. We want to protect performers and people at large.”
Lee was charged with misdemeanor battery, misdemeanor possession of a deadly weapon with intent to assault, and two violations for jumping on stage and attacking Chappelle during the comedian’s performance at the Netflix Is a Joke festival at the Hollywood Bowl on May 3, 2022. If convicted as charged in the misdemeanor case only, he would face up to one and a half years in county jail and up to $4,000 in fines.
Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascón took heat when he rejected felony charges in the case, but his office said the incident didn’t meet the threshold for felony prosecution because Lee’s alleged weapon — a replica gun housing a switchblade — was in the folded position the entire time and because Chappelle wasn’t injured.
Two weeks after the tackling, Lee was charged May 19 with the alleged stabbing. In a statement, Gascón said the publicity generated by the attack on Chappelle helped police solve the December case. “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 said.
Chappelle’s lawyer declined to comment Thursday on the plea offer. He previously told Rolling Stone that the comedian wanted Gascón to reconsider and file felony charges for the onstage incident. “Mr. Chappelle wants this case charged as a felony,” Gabriel Colwell, a partner at Squire Patton Boggs, said. “Entertainers in Los Angeles need to know that the justice system will protect them on stage.”
When Lee appeared in court on May 6, he was wearing a quilted blue protective vest and had his arm bandaged and in a sling. Padilla said he suffered a “broken arm and significant facial injuries” in the melee that followed after he ran backstage.
Los Angeles City Attorney Henrico Bautista said a motion filed by the defense revealed Lee has a “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.
In a jailhouse interview with the New York Post, Lee reportedly said he spoke to Chappelle before he was removed from the Hollywood Bowl in custody the night of the incident. “I told him my mother and grandmother, who fought for his civil rights to be able to speak, would be upset at the things he said.”
Lee reportedly told The Post that he stormed the stage out of frustration with the comedian’s jokes about the LGBTQ community and homelessness. “I wanted him to know that next time, he should consider first running his material by people it could affect,” he said, adding: “I identify as bisexual . . . and I wanted him to know what he said was triggering.”