‘Django’ actress Daniele Watts, boyfriend plead to disturbing peace
An actress in the movie “Django Unchained” and her boyfriend, who accused a Los Angeles police officer of mistreating the actress because she was black, pleaded no contest Monday to disturbing the peace and were ordered to write an apology letter to the sergeant involved in their high-profile detention.
In exchanged for their plea, a lewd conduct charge was dropped against Daniele Watts and Brian James Lucas, said Frank Mateljan, a spokesman for the city attorney’s office.
Mateljan said the couple was ordered to serve a year of formal diversion, complete 40 hours of community service and write letters apologizing to the LAPD sergeant and an officer, as well as the occupants of a Ventura Boulevard building who reported them to police.
The charges stemmed from a Sept. 11 detention in Studio City that drew national headlines after the couple alleged they were mistreated because Watts is black and Lucas is white.
Los Angeles police said officers responded to a call about a couple having sex in a car. The department said Watts and Lucas matched the description of the couple.
Watts was briefly detained as officers asked for identification, but was later released.
The LAPD initially said no crime was committed, but a department spokesman later said that a follow-up investigation “revealed witnesses who were willing to provide evidence of a criminal act.”
Watts and Lucas initially pleaded not guilty to the lewd conduct charge and characterized their actions as a “passionate public embrace” and “extended public display of affection.”
Lou Shapiro, an attorney representing Watts and Lucas, said Monday that his clients were pleased with the outcome. If they complete the terms set forth, he said, they could have the case dismissed from their record.
He acknowledged the requirement to write letters of apology was unusual, but said it was fitting given the circumstances of the case.
“It was a very emotionally charged case,” he said. “I think it’s a nice ending to an emotionally charged case, to have a letter of apology. It’s a win for everybody.”
The LAPD launched an internal affairs inquiry into the officers’ actions after Watts and Lucas complained publicly that the actress had been handcuffed. Lucas wrote on Facebook that police acted as if the couple had been engaged in prostitution.
One of the officers involved in the detention made public a recording he made of the encounter and defended his and the other officers’ actions, denying the allegations of racism. Sgt. Jim Parker told The Times on Monday that he had been ordered to a Board of Rights hearing -- a three-person LAPD disciplinary panel -- on an allegation that he was insubordinate for speaking to the media about the incident.
Parker, a 26-year LAPD veteran, said Monday that he was surprised by the stipulation that Watts and Lucas write apology letters. But he said he was more concerned by what discipline his colleagues might face from the LAPD, and hoped the no contest plea might help their case.
“It would have been a non-issue if she had not gone public in the first place. She went public first, and I had to clear myself,” Parker said. “I tried to stop it right away.”
Follow @katemather for more LAPD news.
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