A former Los Angeles County district attorney said Monday that Will Smith could and “should” still be prosecuted for slapping Chris Rock at the Oscars — even though the comedian declined to press charges.
“The [Los Angeles] city attorney could bring charges based upon the evidence without necessarily relying upon the victim,” Steve Cooley, the Los Angeles County District Attorney from 2000 to 2012, told The Post.
“The victim does not control whether or not a prosecutor should file charges,” Cooley continued.
“However, charges actually can and should be filed because the offense was against the state of California. It’s not Chris Rock versus Will Smith in a criminal matter. The LAPD and the city attorney should not close the door on what was an obvious criminal offense and is easily provable,” said Cooley.
Cooley said the LAPD and the Los Angeles City prosecutors should pursue the case. Smith could be charged with simple misdemeanor battery, the former district attorney said.
Smith, during Sunday night’s awards ceremony, rushed the stage and delivered a hard slap to Rock’s face after the comic cracked a joke about Jada Pinkett Smith’s baldness, which is caused by alopecia.
Smith then went back to his seat and angrily yelled “keep my wife’s name out of your f—ing mouth,” as the stunned Dolby Theatre crowd became uncomfortably silent.
The shocking incident was viewed by millions on live television and many more online.
A short time later, an emotional Smith collected the Best Actor award for his role in “King Richard,” and apologized to the Academy without mentioning Rock.
He issued a mea culpa statement to the comic late in the day Monday.
“I would like to publicly apologize to you, Chris,” the rapper-turned-movie star wrote in a statement posted to Instagram.
“I was out of line and I was wrong. I am embarrassed and my actions were not indicative of the man I want to be,” he said.
The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences failed to intervene in the attack or sanction Smith during the ceremony, but it denounced his actions in a statement and said a “formal review” of the incident was underway Monday.
Whoopi Goldberg, a governor on AMPAS’s board, said Monday that Smith would not lose his trophy but was excepted to face punishment.
“We’re not going to take it. Well, there will be consequences, I’m sure. But I don’t think that that’s what they’ll be,” she said on “The View.”
“Particularly because Chris said, ‘Listen, I’m not pressing any charges.’”
Sunday’s incident wasn’t the first time Smith put hands on someone at a Hollywood gala.
He slapped a prankster that tried to kiss him on the red carpet of the “Men in Black 3” premiere in 2012.