Two men who donned anti-Ryan Lochte shirts and stormed onto the “Dancing with the Stars” stage during the live broadcast of the show’s season premiere last September pleaded not guilty Thursday to misdemeanor charges.
Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Christopher K. Lui set a Feb. 16 pretrial hearing for Sam Sotoodeh, 59, and Barzeen Soroudi, 26, who were not in court and entered their pleas through an attorney.
The two are charged with leaving a spectator area and entering a stage, along with interfering with a performance. They could face up to six months in jail and a $1,000 fine if convicted.
At a court hearing last October, Sotoodeh and Sordoudi were ordered to stay at least 300 yards away from the Olympic swimmer.
The men were protesting the selection of Lochte as a contestant on the ABC show over the swimmer’s account of being robbed while in Brazil for the Summer Olympics. Police in Rio de Janeiro subsequently accused him of fabricating the account, and the United States Olympic Committee and USA Swimming announced Sept. 8 that Lochte would be suspended from domestic and international USA Swimming national team competitions for 10 months.
Sotoodeh and Soroudi wore white T-shirts bearing Lochte’s name in a circle with a line through it and rushed onto the dance floor Sept. 12 as one of the judges, Carrie Ann Inaba, discussed Lochte’s performance of the foxtrot with dance partner Cheryl Burke.
Inaba could be heard saying, “Hey, back off. Excuse me,” before the show’s host, Tom Bergeron, said, “We’ll take a break.”
The two were immediately subdued and escorted out of the building, according to a representative of BBC Worldwide Productions, which produces “Dancing with the Stars.” They were released from jail the next morning.
—City News Service