City Desk

Kal Penn’s Mugger Used Credit Card to Buy Gas

Obviously, Kal Penn (whose non-stage name is Kalpen Modi) doesn't have Charlie Sheen's mojo. The actor (of the pro-weed Harold and Kumar franchise) didn't have the foresight to hire a police escort to race him across town last April, as he prepared to take a hiatus from his job as an Obama staffer in order to film a movie. Penn instead ambled around the District alone, and paid for it when he was mugged on S Street NW. Police arrested 20-year-old Marcellus Chambers for the crime, but Penn wasn't sure Chambers was the guy. Court records say when cops put a photo array in front of him, Penn balked.

Still, the actor grew impatient when the legal process seemed to stall. Months after Chambers was charged, there were no hearings scheduled, so in an email to City Desk in November, Penn referred to the mugging case as going "absurdly slow." (The U.S. Attorney's office, however, pointed out that it had missed no deadlines and was "well within legal timelines.") The pace picked up in February, when Chambers received a seven-count indictment.

A few weeks ago, Chambers pleaded guilty to two charges—robbery and possession of a firearm during a violent crime.

It had already come out that Chambers had used Penn's credit card and iPhone (that's how cops tracked him). But the indictment added a sad layer to the story. Not too long after the robbery, Chambers allegedly used the credit card to buy gas, groceries, and a meal at McDonald's. The detail seems to reveal that Chambers was more desperate for money than he was interested in holding up a celebrity. A call to Chambers' lawyer wasn't immediately returned.

Chambers' plea agreement says he could face up to 48 months in prison. He's scheduled to be sentenced on June 7.

Penn didn't respond to a request for comment.

Photo by SAITOR via Flickr/Creative Commons Attribution License 2.0

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  • Reader

    So armed robbery AND the gun charge add up to a total of 48 months? No wonder D.C.'s crime rates are so high. In Virginia the gun alone would get five years. And it doesn't sound like D.C.'s prosecutors care much whether this guy goes down at all. And the reporter thinks it's "sad" that the criminal was desperate for money? Why does he think anybody commits armed robbery? What would be a cheerful reason to commit armed robbery?

  • Jeffrey

    Isn't being "desperate for money" the motive behind virtually all thefts? Isn't that the point of stealing?

  • brian

    You two are dum-dums

  • Aubrey

    Who's the author of this article? Robin Hood? Since when is armed robbery OK because you're hungry? Ridiculous.

  • Anonymous

    The only thing "sad" about this instance is that someone was victimized, no matter the criminal's intentions. It is this very attitude, one lackadaisical towards crime, that perpetuates crimes similar to this, where good, young professionals are taken advantage of at the hands of the city's violent class. It's unfortunate that many DC residents, and I suppose journalists - as well, chalk it up to the fact that "hey, that's just what happens in DC." The excuse of groceries, gas or drugs should not matter, and in my opinion are all the same.

  • Hillman

    If I'm hungry it's cool if I mug someone?


    DC is overloaded with food banks and other free food options. There's simply no reason anyone that's hungry in DC has to rob someone for food money.

  • Ignacio

    Denegrification NOW.

  • umm

    well he will be getting 3 meals a day for 48 months wont he. and we will all be paying for it.

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  • T Alston

    There are three sides to every story the criminal side, the police side and the truth. U all are making judgements based on an article. If u weren't there don't judge or take everything at face value.