March 31, 2022 By Paul Wallin

Will Smith v. Chris Rock | Should Celebrity Status Allow a Crime to go Unpunished?

It is likely by now that you have heard the news and even seen the video that surfaced around the world the night of the 94th Oscars. Chris Rock, who has been a celebrity comedian for many years, made a joke about Jada Pinket Smith, who is Will Smith’s wife. Soon after the joke was made Will Smith got out of his seat, walked up to Chris Rock, and slapped him across the face. Smith then turned around and walked back to his seat. 

Many people are wondering whether Will Smith should and will be prosecuted for his actions. The Los Angeles Police Department made a statement saying that Chris Rock will not be pressing charges against Will Smith. However, “if the involved party desires a police report at a later date, LAPD will be available to complete an investigative report.” 

However, this statement by the LAPD is incorrect as it relates to the law and the police department’s legal obligation to the people of Los Angeles. The fact that Chris Rock has declined to press charges does not mean that the LAPD should not investigate this matter immediately. This crime is on videotape. Millions of people are witnesses to what happened. In fact, this is a very easy case.

No matter how offensive the joke that Chris Rock was, it does not justify Mr. Smith assaulting Mr. Rock. Words alone are not a defense in California to a charge of assault and battery. Since the criminal act is on videotape Mr. Smith can be convicted of this crime by showing the video. Mr. Rock can be issued a subpoena which would require him to come to court to testify as to what happened to him. In addition, he can testify to the extent of his injuries. This would be one of the easiest cases a prosecutor could ever bring to court and would very likely result in a quick jury verdict of guilt.

Mr. Smith must be prosecuted because he committed a crime. In addition, it will send a clear message to the millions of people watching, many of whom were minors, that acts of such violence are not acceptable and when they occur there will be legal consequences. If Mr. Smith is not prosecuted it will send the opposite message. That message would be that people who are “celebrities” or who have a lot of money can escape punishment because of their “status”. This is not how our criminal justice system works. Every person must be judged equally regardless of their “social status”. 

In many other criminal cases, persons who commit violent acts upon others are prosecuted and convicted, even when the victim doesn’t want to have the accused prosecuted. This often happens in domestic violence cases. A spouse will physically assault and injure their husband or wife and the police are notified. The police come to the house and find the injured spouse with bruises and/or bleeding. In some cases, they must go to the hospital by ambulance. However, the victim may tell the police officer she does not want to testify. He or she might say this “won’t happen again”. He or she might say, “her spouse just had a rough night”. 

The statements above do not mean that the prosecution does not file charges in these cases. In fact, criminal charges are filed for domestic violence in hundreds of cases each year where the victim says they do not want to testify. It is very clear that the fact that Mr. Rock doesn’t want to prosecute Mr. Smith is not a legal reason why the LAPD should not investigate this case and then request that the prosecutor file criminal charges.

Should Will Smith Be Prosecuted for Assault and Battery?

The question now appears to be should Will Smith be prosecuted? The answer is yes. Any person should be prosecuted for the crimes of assault and battery, and being a celebrity should not make you immune from being charged with a crime you committed that was seen around the world. 

Shortly after the incident happened Jaden Smith, Will Smith’s son, tweeted, “that’s how we do it.” This tweet and the actions of Will Smith sends the wrong message to children and anyone else who may think it is ok to take the law into their own hands just because they don’t like what someone else has said. It makes people believe that they can do anything they want without repercussions and has a negative impact on society. 

The average person who commits a crime that is on videotape is prosecuted for that crime. It makes it very easy for the perpetrator of that crime to be convicted. Will Smith committed a criminal act that is on videotape. He should not escape prosecution because of his “social status” or “celebrity”.

 A few days after the incident the Board of Governors initiated disciplinary proceedings against Smith for violations of the Academy’s Standards of Conduct, including inappropriate physical contact, abusive or threatening behavior, and compromising the integrity of the Academy. As part of the proceeding, Smith will receive 15 days’ notice of a vote as well as an opportunity to be heard by written response, and at the next board meeting scheduled for April 18, the Academy may take action that could include “suspension, expulsion, or other sanctions permitted by the Bylaws and Standards of Conduct.” It is important to note that these possible penalties do not include any criminal charges for Smith’s actions.

It has been reported that Will Smith was asked to leave the Oscars after the incident occurred and he refused to do so. No further requests or actions were taken after Smith’s refusal to leave. This again may give people the idea that certain people are “above the law” and leads to a question that many people may wonder: “If I slapped someone in the face and it was on videotape would I be allowed to walk away with no punishment? The answer for the ordinary person is that it is highly likely they would face criminal charges because they committed a crime. There must be equal justice for all in our country regardless of how rich or powerful or successful a person is. That is the entire basis of our criminal justice system.

Call A Wallin & Klarich Criminal Defense Lawyer Today

As emphasized earlier, most ordinary citizens do not get to commit assault and battery on live television and walk away without facing criminal punishments. If you are accused of committing assault or battery the charges you will face serious consequences. If you are found guilty of assault and battery you may face up to six months in jail and be fined $2,000. Here at Wallin & Klarich, our team of highly trained attorneys have over 40 years of experience representing clients accused of assault and battery. We know what defenses to look for based on the specific facts of each case and communicate with our clients throughout the entire process. We are familiar with all the local courthouses and judges and have handled thousands of cases that give us a very good idea of what the prosecution will bring to the table. This extensive knowledge gives us the confidence that you want when looking for a lawyer to stand by your side in the courtroom.     

With offices in Orange County, Riverside, San Bernardino, Victorville, West Covina, Torrance, and Los Angeles, there is an experienced Wallin & Klarich criminal defense lawyer available near you who can aggressively defend you. If you or a loved one is facing criminal charges, give us a call and we will do all we can to help you win your case.

 Please contact us at (877) 4-NO-JAIL or (714)587-4068 for a free phone consultation. We will be there when you call.

AUTHOR: Paul Wallin

Paul Wallin is one of the most highly respected attorneys in Southern California. His vast experience, zealous advocacy for his clients and extensive knowledge of many areas of the law make Mr. Wallin a premiere Southern California attorney. Mr. Wallin founded Wallin & Klarich in 1981. As the senior partner of Wallin & Klarich, Mr. Wallin has been successfully representing clients for more than 30 years. Clients come to him for help in matters involving assault and battery, drug crimes, juvenile crimes, theft, manslaughter, sex offenses, murder, violent crimes, misdemeanors and felonies. Mr. Wallin also helps clients with family law matters such as divorce and child custody.

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