- Associated Press - Tuesday, July 28, 2015

July 28—The Santa Fe man who is going to trial for throwing a banana peel at black comic Dave Chappelle says the comedian confronted him at the police station after the show, accused him of being a racist and hurled profanities at him and his mother.

Christian Englander, 31, the self-described eccentric and performance artist who threw the peel during a March performance by Chappelle at the Lensic Performing Arts Center, is charged with battery and disturbing the peace — petty misdemeanors that each carry a jail sentence of up to six months and a possible fine of $500.

Jury selection in the case is set for Sept. 23, but Englander said Monday that he would like to arrange a plea deal.

The case has taken on racial overtones and attracted widespread attention on social media sites because Chappelle accused Englander of committing a racist act by throwing the banana peel at him while he was onstage.

Englander said Monday that after he was arrested in the March 30 incident, Chappelle showed up at the police station to talk to him. He said Chappelle asked him, “Don’t you know bananas are racist?”

Throughout history, some people have used monkey references to insult black people, and some sports spectators have been known to throw bananas and banana peels at black athletes during competitions.

But Englander told Chappelle he disagreed that his heckling was racist, and the comedian allegedly began insulting him with obscenities.

Santa Fe Police Department spokeswoman Lt. Andrea Dobyns confirmed that Chappelle did show up at the police station that night to talk to Englander.

Englander said he meant no harm toward Chappelle and that he doesn’t find bananas racist. “It was the first time I heckled an African-American comedian. It got misconstrued,” he said.

He said he threw the banana peel after Chappelle began insulting one of his friends, an artist, who was in the audience. “To me, it wasn’t a violent act, and I never meant to hurt anyone,” Englander said. “In comedy, you get heckled. It seems to me that comes with the job. You heckle to engage. It puts the comedian on the edge. It puts them on their toes.”

After a brief hearing before Judge Donita Sena in Magistrate Court on Monday, Englander said he would like to avoid a trial. “I’m not afraid of the end result, but it’s a waste of human resources,” he said. “There’s real criminals out there that they can try. If there is a plea offering, I’ll take it.”

Englander’s attorney, Roderick Thompson, said there is always the possibility of a plea bargain, but he would not elaborate.

Thompson, who is black, has said he does not believe his client is racist and has argued that Chappelle should testify as a witness in the case or the charges should be dropped.

“I think a jury is going to want to see Mr. Chappelle,” Thompson said. He said both sides have to present a list of witnesses to the court 10 days before a jury is selected. It is unclear if Chappelle will be called to testify.

Assistant District Attorney Anastasia Martin declined to comment on the case Monday, other than to confirm jury selection is scheduled for Sept. 23.

A representative of the Gersh Agency, which represents Chappelle, declined to comment Monday.

Several days after the Chappelle incident, another black man, Jay Willis, accused Englander of throwing a banana peel at him following a physical encounter between the two at a downtown bar. Each man said the other was the aggressor.

No charges have been filed in that incident.

Contact Robert Nott at 986-3021 or [email protected]


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