Could Will Smith face charges for slapping Chris Rock?

Many worry Oscars aggression sets dangerous precedent

Many worry Oscars aggression sets dangerous precedent

Actor Will Smith walked onto the stage at the Oscars Sunday evening and slapped comedian Chris Rock during the live broadcast.

Rock had just made a joke about Smith’s wife’s lack of hair, which Jada Pinkett Smith says is the result of a medical condition called alopecia.

Now, the opinions are split on if Will Smith was defending his wife’s honor or if he went too far and should face criminal charges.

“Jada, I love you. ‘G.I. Jane 2,’ can’t wait to see it,” Rock said in the joke many said was out of bounds.

While Will Smith initially laughed, Jada Pinkett Smith was stone-faced. Will Smith then walked onto the stage and open-hand slapped Rock, before turning away and yelling expletives.

“Keep my wife’s name out of your (expletive) mouth,” Smith said.

“This is a textbook battery,” said Jacksonville-based attorney Lauren Prater. “The intentional touching of somebody against their will. In Florida, if this happened, this would be a first-degree misdemeanor punishable by a maximum of a year in jail.”

She said that even though Rock did not press charges through Los Angeles police, California prosecutors could still do just that. It’s because there’s clear video evidence and hundreds of witnesses.

“When you look at it from a public precedent perspective, I see it as, ‘Oh, my goodness, imagine if anybody could go up to any comedian and assault them if they don’t like what they said?’ We could be in a really dangerous situation,” Prater said.

On social media, many people are worried that this is triggering for abuse survivors and others say that laughing this off is setting a precedent that getting physical is OK.

Jacksonville psychologist Dr. Tracy Alloway psychologist said the impacts are serious.

“Psychologists use a term to describe this kind of behavior,” Alloway said. “It is ‘displacement,’ where the aggression, while directed at an individual or even an object may be larger than what the actual action or situation calls for. And it may be in this situation that, that response that is not quite come measured with the nature of the comment or the event that kind of, it’s at a 10 perhaps, that may reflect that some sort of aggression or some sort of underlying issue in Will Smith that is driving that behavior forward.”

The Academy Awards did not publicly go into details about what happens next, if anything.

In a tweet, Academy leaders wrote: “The Academy does not condone violence of any form.”

SURVEY: What do you think should happen to Will Smith?

News4JAX asked Insiders what they thought should happen to Will Smith.

At last check, 45.3% of people who had responded to the survey said he was justified in his actions, 27.9% wanted to see criminal charges, 13.8% thought Will Smith should lose his Oscar, and 12.9% thought he needs anger management counseling.

About the Author:

Lifetime Jacksonville resident anchors the 8 and 9 a.m. weekday newscasts and is part of the News4Jax I-Team.