‘Django’ actress Daniele Watts, boyfriend plead not guilty to lewd conduct

Actress Daniele Watts recalls the events leading up to her detainment by LAPD at a panel discussion titled, "Race, Sexual Expression and Civil Rights Law: A conversation about the Daniele Watts Controversy," at USC Gould School of Law in November.
(Marcus Yam / Los Angeles Times)
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An attorney representing “Django Unchained” actress Daniele Watts and her boyfriend entered not guilty pleas on their behalf Tuesday in a lewd conduct case stemming from their high-profile detention last fall.

Attorney Lou Shapiro confirmed that he entered the plea on behalf of his clients. Their next hearing is scheduled for Feb. 23.

“I look forward to a positive outcome for my clients,” Shapiro said.

City prosecutors charged Watts and Brian James Lucas with misdemeanor lewd conduct in October, about a month after Los Angeles police detained the couple in Studio City. The Sept. 11 stop 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.

The LAPD initially said no crime was committed, but spokesman Lt. Andrew Neiman later said that a follow-up investigation “revealed witnesses who were willing to provide evidence of a criminal act.”

Watts, who appeared in the movie “Django Unchained” and the FX TV show “Partners,” has denied that the couple were having sex and defended her refusal to provide identification to officers 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 after they were charged.

“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.”

If convicted, the couple faces as long as six months in jail and a $1,000 fine.

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, defended their actions. He told The Times that 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.

“If they had handled this situation in a civil manner, they would have never been charged or detained for that long,” Parker told The Times last fall. “I would have been gone in five minutes.”

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