"Django Unchained" actress Daniele Watts and her boyfriend Brian James Lucas have each been charged with one count of lewd conduct for allegedly having sex in public moments before they were involved in an altercation with LAPD officers.
Each faces up to six months in jail and a $1,000 fine if convicted on the misdemeanor charges, according to the Los Angeles City Attorney's office.
Watts, 28, and Lucas made headlines when they claimed Watts' brief detention outside the CBS Studio Center in Studio City last month was the result of racial profiling. Watts is black and Lucas is white.
Sgt. Jim Parker, the LAPD officer who responded to the scene in the 11900 block of Ventura Boulevard after nearby workers and residents reported a couple engaging in lewd behavior, later released an audio recording of his version of the incident.
The recorded version differed substantially from Watts' account.
Photos showing the couple in compromising positions in the passenger seat of a silver Mercedes were also released by witnesses. They were posted to the website TMZ.
Activists who initially called on the department to apologize to the couple later backtracked and called on Watts and Lucas to retract their statements, after the audiotape and photographs surfaced.
They are both slated to be arraigned Nov. 13.
Watts and Lucas will be notified by mail to appear in court in Van Nuys in three weeks. Because it is not a felony, just a misdemanor, she need not appear in person, but can have an attorney handle it for her. Her publicist told NBC4 she and Lucas were planning to get legal advice Tuesday afternoon, and will make no comment until they've done that.
Watts declined a request to speak with NBC4.
Watts and Lucas released a statement Tuesday night saying, "We are, quite frankly, appalled and disturbed that the LA prosecutors office has chosen to file these charges against us. The LAPD has previously issued a statement saying that there was no crime committed. If a passionate public embrace while displaying no nudity is grounds for having charges filed against you, then we'd expect that everyone who engages in an extended public display of affection with their loved one will be targeted as well. Sergeant Parker is still under investigation for his conduct and filing misdemeanor charges against us does not change his behavior.”
Her statement makes reference to LAPD investigating Parker. The key area that Chief Charlie Beck raised as a concern is not Parker's handling of the encounter, though that is being investigated, but the appropriateness of his releasing the audio recording.
The audio recorders that some officers carry are not department issue - officers buy their own. Policy is not clear whether officers are free to make their recordings public. Commander Andrew Smith said that issue is still under investigation. Parker's job could lose his job because he made the recording public without permission.
Parker also released a statement: "The support from all of the officers in the past six weeks who have contacted me and expressed their support for what I am doing and for what I am bringing to the public's attention only confirms that I am doing the right thing. All of the support from the community and the letters lets me know what I knew all along and that is that I did the right thing. All of the support only validates that I did the right thing and I would do it again if I had to do. Thank you."
Robert Kovacik contributed to this report.