Actor Daniele Watts and chef Brian James Lucas were scheduled to be arraigned Nov. 13 on charges of lewd conduct
brought by the Los Angeles city attorney following their Sept. 11 encounter with LAPD Police Sgt. Jim Parker. During the incident that led to the charges, Watts was detained and handcuffed after emotionally bringing up suspicions that they had been targeted for being an interracial couple after someone called 911 to report they were being publicly affectionate with each other in Lucas' car. That arraignment has since been postponed
until Dec. 8 to allow them time to sign a conflict of interest waiver
so they can share the same attorney, Louis Shapiro. They have been ordered to surrender themselves for booking.
Watts' original claim that the incident may have been racially motivated has generated a firestorm of support from those who have experienced similar situations and criticism from those who claim she was merely "playing the race card." [I transcribed audio of the incident based on tapes provided to TMZ here and discussed additional audio of what occurred between Sgt. Parker and Lucas here.]
Meanwhile, the Los Angeles Times asked the rather obvious question of why the city attorney has decided to put forth these charges so long after the incident, especially since Sgt. Parker at the time said on tape that he had no evidence of a crime and no interest in actually investigating any crime ("I would have been gone in five minutes ..."). And why not the district attorney instead of the city attorney?
Race or retaliation: What motivated both the initial 911 call, police detention and now these misdemeanor charges—which could mean up to six months in jail—against Watts and Lucas when initially the police said "no crime had been committed"?
This case, which began merely as a 911 call allegedly over two people in Studio City having sex in public, has shifted gears into an issue of possible racial profiling, police abuse and harassment leaving the supervising Officer Sgt Jim Parker on Administrative leave while he is investigated by Internal Affairs and Daniele Watts and her boyfriend Brian Lucas facing charges while being threatened and bullied on social media for the apparently intolerable affront of mentioning the possible influence of race in a police context.
Continue below the fold to read more.
Full disclosure: I have in recent days, besides recovering from the aftermath of last Tuesday's election, been in correspondence with Watts herself since she contacted me after reading some of my previous articles on her situation.
As a result, she's let me in on some of the inside details that have not been previously reported by the media. She told me that when she and Brian originally responded to an interview request from BuzzFeed two days after the incident had occurred “in an effort to raise awareness about the civil liberties involved”; the LAPD had no record of the incident.
Certainly not when Watts did her first interview with the press about it on the same day Time.com reported that the LAPD had "no comment":
On Sept. 15, the Monday after the incident, an LAPD representative released a statement saying that "Two people had been briefly detained, but it was revealed that no crime had been committed."
So neither Sergeant Parker nor two fellow officers, who retrieved and handcuffed Watts on his direction after she walked away, bothered to write and file an incident report to document it.
In fact, based on a recent interview Parker gave to TheWrap (a Hollywood-based newszine), he didn't consider writing the incident up at the time:
"After calling for assistance from a female officer, who was accompanied by her partner, Parker told TheWrap he left the scene and didn't give the incident a second thought."
Parker told TheWrap he feels like he is in even more trouble than the actress and her boyfriend. “I've got more charges against me than she has against her,” he said. Among the charges or allegations—insubordination [for leaking the tape and talking to the media] along with discourteous behavior [for the way he spoke to Watts on the audio recording].
He has also been accused of cashing in by selling the audio recording to TMZ. Parker emphatically denies receiving any money.
After Watts and Lucas caused a media frenzy by posting about the incident on Facebook, Sgt. Parker took official police audiotapes (which had been edited) and gave them to TMZ
, seemingly in an effort to discredit and defame Watts. Isn't it curious that now that Sgt. Parker is on administrative duty and under investigation for that action—as well as other issues—the city attorney has to save face and continue the smear campaign of Watts and Lucas?
Just how often does the city attorney prosecute anyone for "lewd conduct"?
When I looked at LA CrimeMapping System for the address of "11969 Ventura Blvd," which is the Art Director's Guild directly in front of where the incident took place, I got a total of six reported crimes going back to Sept 11. There were two burglaries and four incidents of petty theft. Daniele Watts' confrontation with Sgt. Parker isn't included in the system.
Watts also informed me that only she received a letter notifying her of the charges, not Lucas.
“Brian never received an official letter notifying him of charges. I was the only one to receive a written notification. They also misspelled my name and got my date of birth wrong on the official police report … Which is strange considering how adamant they were about demanding my identification”
One would think the police would have actually looked at
the item they were so desperate to get in their hands.
Again, Parker had no intention of actually investigating this 911 report as a "crime." He was only going through the motions—including his demand for ID—in order to "seem responsive" to the public call. Daniele herself pointed out this telling segment from the audio:
Watts: "I think I'd like to identify you to my publicist. What's your first name?"
(I said this, because I wanted to make it clear that I was not going to let this unfair treatment go without public recourse. He responds without missing a beat.)
Parker: "Now you see why you're in handcuffs"
Watts: I feel that this exchange says a lot more about Parker’s inconsistencies than the media has even come close to reporting. It is obvious that retaliation has motivated his approach from the beginning. Otherwise, why would he claim that I'm being held in handcuffs for threatening to bring public attention to his actions?
I am deeply concerned that the LAPD is attempting to cover up the specifics of police misconduct that day—including the fact that Sgt. Parker blatantly misrepresented information to his supporting officers about his reason for requesting the use of force (handcuffing). “My supervisor ordered you to stay and you left," said the handcuffing officer, when no such order was made.
Watts' point here is supported by additional audio
from a second tape which was recorded by the officers who handcuffed her, claiming that Parker had told her that she couldn't leave. But he never said any such thing.
In fact, when Watts said she was walking away from Parker, all he actually said, sarcastically, was...
You can also hear on the additional audio when Watts complains that the cuffs are hurting her arm. Later the female officer adjusts the cuffs, but by that point blood had already been drawn.
Police Chief Beck’s statements that the only police misconduct under investigation is the “unauthorized release of audio” is entirely avoiding the civil liberties issues that have already been raised, in part, by the ACLU.
The LAPD didn't send official representatives to interview witnesses to the alleged "Lewd Conduct" until after Parker had given tapes and unofficial witness reports to TMZ, according to the Police Report and Parker's own statements on KFI Radio
According to the police report, obtained last week via our attorney, the LAPD didn't send an officer to do official witness interviews until 4:30 PM on Monday, Sept. 15. This was four days after the incident, and 15 hours after TMZ had already published Parker’s version of the witness reports with the slanderous headline, “After Car Sex, She pulls Race, Fame Card."
At 3:00 PM on the same day the TMZ article was published, and again, before the official document shows witness interviews taking place, Parker did a live radio interview on KFI 640 claiming that he had questioned a witness, the 9-1-1 caller, and that he was sure she saw explicit sex, complete with post-tissue clean up.
None of Parker's witness follow-up calls are listed anywhere on the police report for the official “Lewd Conduct” investigation. But it was reported by Parker to the public via TMZ, and live on the John and Ken show.
How could any ‘official’ witness' testimony be reliable after Sgt. Parker created this slanderous public narrative?
Also, why is the public getting an account of witness testimony—direct from the mouth of an officer—that contradicts the actual police report?
Another issue is that according to Sgt. Rudolph Valadez, the officer who is investigating Parker's conduct that it's against police policy code for Parker to be speaking with the press
while he's being investigated, including both local TV news, the Los Angeles Times
, the Hollywood Reporter
the and the John and Ken show.
Daniele also expressed some concern that the police report lists Sgt Valadez as the investigating officer in the charges filed against them, not Sgt Parker—which may mean that his target really wasn't Parker at all and that he may be attempting to entrap them somehow. At this point, that remains to be seen.
One other fact that has been trampled by the media in this situation and has fueled many of Daniele's detractors is the view that she accused LAPD of Racism - but that quite literally never happened.
“Perhaps it may be worth sharing that I never formally or officially accused the LAPD of racial profiling. Brian stated on his Facebook and in interviews that he felt we were profiled, and that race may have been a factor, and across the board the mainstream media used his words as mine to create more inflammatory stories. While I do feel that conversations dealing with racial conflict can be beneficial, my intent in speaking with the press was and continues to be to raise awareness of civil liberties that affect the way police officers treat all Americans."
What she said to Sgt Parker, the thing that apparently set him off, and set off all of the racism deniers that have since dogged her - for example claiming that she would never work again after "playing the race card" and that Brian should be "strung up" - was "Do you know how many times police have been called
because I'm black and he's white? I'm just being really honest, sir."
As both Watts and Lucas have noted, they had been stopped and accosted by police three previous times while together. And it's not just that someone called the cops on them (one was a traffic stop in Texas), it was the dismissive attitude those police had toward Watts and not toward Lucas. Some—like Parker—wouldn't even look her in the eye, or talk directly to her, choosing instead to talk to Lucas as if she wasn't even there, or else when they did talk to her—they spoke in a "sing-song" voice, as if speaking to a child.
Despite all this, she never said Parker was definitely a racist, except at the very end of the incident when she said, "Maybe, you might be a little bit racist."
Has she now become a target of the city attorney because she had the temerity to bring up the possibility that there was a pattern in these repeated events, that it might be possible that perhaps one person who had found their public display of affection so objectionable and disturbing they had to make it a legal matter to force it to STOP, that police in various jurisdictions had been repeatedly treating her as a criminal (she was accused of being a burglar while moving boxes with Watts), and a drunk when she decided to take a nap at the hospital while her mother was having surgery)?
The question remains, has the City Attorney's Office fostered a selective prosecution in this case largely because of Watts' criticism of LAPD conduct for their falsely claiming that they had a legal right to demand her ID. (They don't because of Kolender v. Lawson which struck down California's "Show ID Law.") Is he going after her because she complained that the police detained her in cuffs but without informing her that she should not leave the scene, even though she told them she was walking away to continue her phone conversation with her father?
It's clear that Parker's decision to violate protocol and release police audio to the TMZ, then give radio interviews were both payback and an attempt to shift the media narrative. Are these charges by the city attorney simply more of the same, or are they simply doing due diligence?
The response from latimes.com readers continues to be passionately mixed now that charges will be filed, with some continuing to embrace their cause and others expressing doubt that the charges are justified:
It does not justify a vindictive waste of limited judicial resources/public funds by the city attorney and LAPD, especially when we're closing courtrooms and furloughing staff—onewatcher1, latimes.com commenter
"This is clearly a retribution/vengeance lawsuit due solely to the outspoken Ms. Watts," wrote commenter Barry Gold, who characterized the charges as an attempt to quell criticism against the LAPD and the city attorney's office. "... Citizens will ALWAYS speak out against their GOVERNMENT, especially in cases of perceived and real abuses."
Commenter msblack expressed repeated outrage in the comments section: "Police officers were clearly violating Ms. Watts' Fourth Amendment rights. California cannot compel citizens to carry papers with them at all times nor do citizens have to produce an ID card just because an officer wants to see one. This story smacks of police retaliation."