Could Will Smith be charged after assaulting Chris Rock?
The slapping incident that happened on stage during the 94th Academy Awards has been responded to immediately by the local police force.
The 2022 Oscars had their own drama unfolding during the ceremony as the night’s Best Actor winner Will Smith slapped Chris Rock and told him to fuck off, after the comedian made a joke about Smith’s wife. Questions immediately began over a potential assault charge.
Could Will Smith be charged by police?
The Los Angeles Police Department said to the New York Post in a statement that it is aware of the incident but that at the moment no action would be taken.
“LAPD investigative entities are aware of an incident between two individuals during the Academy Awards program,” a representative for the department said. “The incident involved one individual slapping another. The individual involved has declined to file a police report. If the involved party desires a police report at a later date, LAPD will be available to complete an investigative report.”
As far as we're aware, as yet Chris Rock has not contacted police about the incident.
That, however, does not rule out prosecutors reviewing the evidence (of which there is clearly an abundance) and deciding to file charges. There is no requirement in California for a victim to file a police complaint for prosecutors to take action against a suspected assailant.
Could Will Smith lose his Oscars award?
Although no official comment regarding this course of action has been given by the Academy, we can turn to its code of ethics for some potential guidance. For this we need to go back to 2017, when the organization made a clear stance against misconduct after the industry sex abuse scandal.
“Academy membership is a privilege offered to only a select few within the global community of filmmakers,” AMPAS CEO Dawn Hudson wrote to members via Variety.
“In addition to achieving excellence in the field of motion picture arts and sciences, members must also behave ethically by upholding the Academy’s values of respect for human dignity, inclusion, and a supportive environment that fosters creativity,“ she continued.
“There is no place in the Academy for people who abuse their status, power or influence in a manner that violates recognized standards of decency. The Academy is categorically opposed to any form of abuse, harassment or discrimination on the basis of gender, sexual orientation, race, ethnicity, disability, age, religion, or nationality. The Board of Governors believes that these standards are essential to the Academy’s mission and reflective of our values.”
What this means for Smith we’ll have to see. Harvey Weinstein and other sexual predators have been stripped of their membership in the Academy for much more serious grievances, but currently there's no rule in place which makes it possible for an Oscar to be stripped away after it's been awarded.
This was his first Oscar win, and he made reference to the controversial moment in his speech.
Best Actor winner Will Smith: his acceptance speech
Smith's portrayal of Richard Williams was enough to win him the Oscar and in a tear-filled acceptance speech he apologised to the Academy and his fellow nominees, though not to Chris Rock.
Will Smith's full speech:
"I know that to do what we do we have to be able to take abuse, take people talking crazy about you. Have people disrespecting you. Got to smile and pretend that's ok. But Richard Williams, what I love.. Denzel [Washington] said to me just a few minutes ago. 'Be careful because at your highest moment that's when the devil comes for you.'
"I want to be a vessel for love. I want to say thank yo to Venus and Serena I want to say thank you to the entire Williams family for entrusting me with your story. I want to be an ambassador for that kind of love and care and concern.
"I want to apologize to the academy my fellow nominees.
"This is a beautiful moment and I'm not crying for winning an award. It's not about winning an award for me, it's about shining a light on... the entire cast, Serena, Venus and the entire family.
"Art imitated life, I look the crazy father, just like they said about Richard Williams. Love will make you do crazy things.
“To my mother, a lot is complicated for me at the moment, to my mother. She wasn’t able to come out. She’s with her knitting crew. Being able to love and care for my mother and my wife. Thank you for this honour, thank you for this moment. Thank you to Richard and the Williams family. And I hope the academy invites me back.”
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