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‘Django Unchained’ actress, boyfriend charged with lewd conduct

Actress Daniele Watts and Brian Lucas talk with KABC-TV in Los Angeles on Sept. 14. They've been charged with lewd conduct stemming from the Sept. 11 incident.
(Associated Press)

A “Django Unchained” actress and her boyfriend who accused Los Angeles police of unjustly handcuffing her last month in Studio City have been charged with lewd conduct in connection with the incident.

Daniele L. Watts and Brian James Lucas drew national headlines after the couple alleged they were mistreated because Watts is black and Lucas is white.

Los Angeles police said officers responded Sept. 11 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 she was released. The LAPD initially said that “it was determined that no crime had been committed.”

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But spokesman Lt. Andrew Neiman said Tuesday that a follow-up investigation “revealed witnesses who were willing to provide evidence of a criminal act.”

The Los Angeles city attorney’s office charged the couple with misdemeanor lewd conduct. They are due in court Nov. 13 and remain free. If convicted, they face up to six months in jail and a $1,000 fine.

Watts, who appeared in the movie “Django Unchained” and plays the daughter of actor Martin Lawrence’s character in the FX TV show “Partners,” has denied that the couple were having sex and defended her refusal to provide identification during the encounter.

“We are, quite frankly, appalled and disturbed that the L.A. prosecutor’s office has chosen to file these charges against us,” the couple said in a statement late Tuesday.

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“If a passionate public embrace while displaying no nudity is grounds for having charges filed against you, then we’d expect that everyone who engages in an extended public display of affection with their loved one will be targeted as well.”

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, Sgt. Jim Parker, made public a recording he took of the encounter and defended his and the other officers’ actions. Parker told The Times he approached the couple because they matched the description provided by the 911 caller. He said Watts repeatedly refused to provide identification and left the scene, prompting his colleagues to detain her with handcuffs until they could identify her.

On Tuesday, Parker said he felt the city attorney’s decision to file charges “validates our reason” for contacting the couple. He said Watts and Lucas brought their legal problems on themselves.

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“If they had handled this situation in a civil manner, they would have never been charged or detained for that long,” he said. “I would have been gone in five minutes.”

richard.winton@latimes.com

kate.mather@latimes.com


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