Django actress Danielle Watts and boyfriend charged with lewd conduct after racism claim

Los Angeles (Reuters) - An actress who accused the Los Angeles police of violating her civil rights when they handcuffed her after responding to reports of indecent exposure has been charged with lewd conduct, along with her boyfriend, prosecutors said on Tuesday.

Danielle Watts, best known for her role in Quentin Tarantino's 2012 slavery western Django Unchained, made headlines last month when she went public to charge that she had been accosted by police largely because she is black and her boyfriend is white.

Watts, 28, and her boyfriend Brian James Lucas, 43, were each charged with one misdemeanour count of lewd conduct, according to a criminal complaint filed in Los Angeles Superior Court on Monday.

A spokesman for the actress declined to comment on the charges, which carry a maximum penalty of six months in jail and a US$1,000 (S$1,270) fine.

Watts was handcuffed by police on Sept 11 after they responded to a report from a passerby that she and Lucas, a celebrity chef also known as ChefBe*Live, were indecently exposed inside a silver Mercedes in the Los Angeles neighbourhood of Studio City.

The couple later both took to social media to accuse officers of violating her rights. "I was handcuffed and detained by 2 police officers from the Studio City Police Department after refusing to agree that I had done something wrong by showing affection, fully clothed, in a public place," Watts wrote on her Facebook page.

Lucas wrote on his Facebook page that the couple were "accosted by police after showing our affection publicly". He said the police had thought Watts was a prostitute because of the couple's attire and their skin colours.

Celebrity news outlet TMZ posted an audio clip from the police purportedly from the incident, where Watts is heard refusing to give an officer her identification as they try to question her about the incident.

One of the officers involved in the incident later told the Los Angeles Times in an interview that Watts was uncooperative and that she was detained only until officers could identify her.

The Los Angeles Police Department opened an internal investigation into the incident following the couple's complaints.

In the nearly three minute-long audio clip, Watts is heard becoming increasingly upset as the police officer continues asking for her ID, and at one point, she mentions: "I have a publicist and I work as an actor at this studio."

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