Three members of an Orange County band, who caused a miles-long traffic backup when they stopped a truck on the Hollywood (101) Freeway and began performing on top of the vehicle, pleaded not guilty Tuesday to criminal charges.
Christopher Roy Wright, 32, David Paul Hale, 30, and Keith R. Yackey, 32, are charged with one felony count of conspiracy, two misdemeanor counts of resisting, obstructing or delaying Los Angeles police and California Highway Patrol officers, and one misdemeanor count each of creating a public nuisance and false imprisonment.
The three climbed on top of a truck decorated with pictures of their band and its logos about 11 a.m. on Oct. 12 and performed as traffic ground to a halt around the vehicle, which blocked three of the four southbound lanes of the freeway near Sunset Boulevard.
According to the criminal complaint, the vehicle was specially outfitted for the "concert" and the date was changed from Columbus Day to one day later "so that more vehicles would be on the freeway and thus cause a bigger disruption."
The Imperial Stars, the trio's self-described "hard core hip hop band" from Orange County, has a song called "Traffic Jam 101."
Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Henry J. Hall doubled bail for the three from $10,000 to $20,000 and ordered them to post the higher amount by their next court appearance on Dec. 28. On that day, a date will be set for a hearing to determine if there is enough evidence to require the three to stand trial.
When asked by the trio's attorney, Roger Rosen, to leave bail at the $10,000 the three had already posted, the judge said, "This is just so over the top that I'm not going to give them a bail reduction."
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The judge -- who said he thought "what happened was not particularly funny" -- told Rosen to warn his clients that there would be "absolutely hideous results of any similar behavior."
Outside court, band members said they respected what the judge had to say, but maintained they took the action for a higher cause than promoting their band.
"I definitely want to raise awareness for the homeless children, but maybe not in this fashion," Hale said when asked if any similar actions were planned.
"... It has raised a lot of awareness for our cause -- our cause is the 1.5 (million) homeless children out there, and obviously our band has gotten a lot of notoriety because of it, because we're standing up for this cause that we think is very severe and serious in our country," Yackey said.
The defendants are accused of repeatedly refusing officers' instructions to stop playing their musical instruments, get down off the vehicle and move the truck.
Police arrived and made three arrests, but the driver took the keys to the truck and drove off in another vehicle. A tow truck had to be called in to remove the vehicle, and the freeway lanes were not reopened until shortly after noon.