Whackin’ Jack in court

Jan 21, 2004 at 12:00 am

What was Michael Jackson doing in a Detroit courtroom last week? Oh, wait, our bad. That was Whackin’ Jack White, not Whacko Jacko. It’s just that from a certain angle, with his unearthly pallor, delicate features and stringy black hair, the White Stripes leader can bear a disturbing resemblance to the alleged pedophile who inhabits Neverland.

Luckily for White, 28, he stands accused of a crime more befitting a rock star: aggravated assault. White (whose given name, according to the court file, is John) was arraigned in 36th District Court last Wednesday. Officially, he stood “mute” when asked by Judge Donna Robinson Milhouse how he pleaded. For all practical purposes, that is equivalent to pleading not guilty. He was released on a $5,000 personal bond that contained no travel restrictions, leaving him free to embark this week on a foreign tour.

The charge facing White, which carries a maximum penalty of one year in jail and/or a $1,000 fine, stems from a confrontation in December with Von Bondies frontman Jason Stollsteimer at the Magic Stick in Detroit. White is accused of pummeling Stollsteimer, who, according to Wayne County assistant prosecutor Marcus Connor, required eye surgery as a result of the beating. White claimed he was acting in self-defense, and filed a countercomplaint against Stollsteimer. An investigation found White’s allegation to be groundless, said Connor.

Connor said there had been an ongoing feud between White and Stollsteimer, with White feeling he was being shortchanged when it came to handing out credit for producing the Von Bondies’ first CD, the aptly titled Lack of Communication.

“It’s part of the nature of the music business,” said Connor. “Everyone wants credit. Mr. White felt he wasn’t given the credit he was due. This was an ongoing thing.”

“Mr. White,” Connor added, “reacted in the wrong way at the wrong time.”

Had we been a little quicker on the uptake, News Hits would have asked Connor when would be the right time to react in such a way. Maybe at the upcoming release party for the Von Bondies’ new CD?

Insatiable gossips that we are, we simply must point out that White was joined in court by longtime friend Dan Miller of the group Blanche. Not that News Hits cares all that much, but the stray music fan reading this column desperately needs to know that Blanche is opening for the White Stripes on their European tour. Even more useless is the information that the alleged assault on Stollsteimer occurred during a Blanche CD release party. One useless but amusing-in-an-ironic-sort-of-way fact is that White’s trial date, March 9, coincides with the scheduled U.S. release date for the Von Bondies’ major label debut CD, Pawn Shoppe Heart.

The arraignment attracted modest media attention, with three local TV stations and a few print types showing up for White’s brief appearance. In court, White was so soft-spoken the judge had to instruct him to speak up so that she could understand his response when asked if he understood the charge facing him. Perhaps it’s because we are far removed from the hipper-than-thou crowd, but the fashion mavens at News Hits were left wondering about White’s sartorial choice of wearing white socks with an otherwise snappy black pinstripe suit, black shirt and black tie, all of which were accompanied by a black fedora festooned with a small red feather. It was apparent White hasn’t spent much time in court, because he made the mistake of wearing said chapeau into the room, only to be barked at by a rather intimidating bailiff who seemed entirely unimpressed by White’s celebrity.

Although looking young and hip enough to be a fan, prosecutor Connor pulled no punches when talking to reporters afterward, saying the case against White is a strong one. He also indicated that the Magic Stick incident might not have been the first time White and Stollsteimer scuffled, but did not elaborate.

White didn’t meet with reporters. His attorney, Wally Piszczatowski, didn’t have much to say either. “There are two sides to every story,” he said “But we’re going to do our talking in court. We’re not going to try this case in the media.”

Piszczatowski refused to say whether his client would seek some sort of plea bargain.

News Hits has only one request: If you happen to see White, don’t mention this article to him. The dude might look as skinny as angel hair pasta, but judging from the post-fight photos we’ve seen of Stollsteimer, Whackin’ Jack packs quite a punch.

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