Last week, actor Terrence Howard’s second ex-wife, Michelle Ghent, obtained a restraining order against him after showing up in court with a massive black eye she says he gave her. It’s the second restraining order Ghent has been granted against her ex-husband, who lives in suburban Philadelphia. Howard’s first wife has also accused the actor of attacking her.
And now, just days before the release of Lee Daniels’ The Butler, in which Howard co-stars opposite Oprah Winfrey, Philadelphia magazine has learned that Howard punched a woman in a Pennsylvania diner in 2005, a woman he didn’t even know.
In March 2005, Danielle DiStefano and her then-fiance Kevin Saffell stopped into Ray’s Dining Car on Germantown Avenue for breakfast. The couple was at the front of the busy diner’s line, waiting to be seated, when Howard walked in and decided he didn’t want to wait in line like everyone else. He attempted to be seated first.
When the hostess began seating Saffell and DiStefano ahead of Howard, the actor stepped in front of them and asked why he wasn’t being seated first. DiStefano told him that she and Saffell were first in line. Howard told her, “Fuck you, I wasn’t talking to you.”
Naturally, her fiance, a United States Marine, took exception to Howard’s words and stepped toward the actor and told him to apologize. Instead, according to police and court documents, Howard punched him in the face, dropping him to the ground. Then he punched DiStefano in the chest. Saffell tried to get up, but Howard continued hitting him, causing him to lose consciousness, says the police incident report.
Perhaps realizing that he had just broken the “don’t hit women” rule that most men are taught — and breaking it in public, no less — Howard fled the scene, removing the brown sweater jacket he was wearing at the time of the altercation. Police tracked Howard down in his white Cadillac Escalade and brought him to the police station.
Here’s what happened when East Norriton police officer John Gibson spoke with Howard in the interview room, according to the police report:
I advised Terrence of his Miranda warnings. Terrence stated that he understood, advising that he had been read his Miranda warnings several times in his life. Terrence then admitted to having a long criminal history…
Terrence did admit to striking both Kevin and Danielle but stated that it was in self-defense. Terrence stated that after he said “Fuck you” to Danielle he thought that Kevin was going to hit him. Terrence hit Kevin first in an attempt to stop Kevin from hitting him. Terrence further stated that he only hit Danielle because she attacked him.
Terrence stated that upon fleeing Ray’s he did remove his jacket in an attempt to confuse any possibly [sic] witnesses and avoid apprehension.
Police also spoke with the restaurant’s cashier and a cook. Neither mentioned seeing DiStefano “attacking” Howard. The actor threw the first and only punches, according to the police report, because he thought he might be hit. In other words, Howard was just standing his ground.
Howard was charged with simple assault and harassment, but the case never made it to trial. The charges of assault and harassment were withdrawn, and Howard pleaded guilty to a charge of disorderly conduct, according to a later police report, just three days before the release of Hustle & Flow, for which Howard was nominated for the Best Actor Oscar.
A 2001 case was resolved similarly after Howard was arrested for assaulting Lori McCommas, his first wife. According to a Whitemarsh Police Department report obtained by The Smoking Gun, Howard went to his estranged wife’s house, “broke the front door down and ran through the screen door in the kitchen. Howard then grabbed the victim’s left arm and punched her twice with a closed fist in the left side of the face.”
Here are the booking photos in the Whitemarsh arrest:
According to multiple media reports, Howard was charged with simple assault, making terroristic threats, harassment and stalking. In 2002, he pleaded guilty to disorderly conduct and the other charges were dropped. That case has since been expunged. Howard and McCommas divorced in 2003, remarried in 2005 and divorced again in 2007.
Howard married Michelle Ghent in 2010. Just one year later, she obtained a restraining order against him after accusing Howard of attacking her. She also filed for divorce, alleging that he began abusing her just one week after their wedding. Ghent claimed Howard once told her, “I’ll hit a woman quicker than I’d hit a man.”
The divorce was finalized in May of this year, but Howard and Ghent recently reconnected on a trip to Costa Rica. This is where Ghent alleges Howard gave her a black eye (seen here), resulting in the most recent restraining order against him.
Howard has publicly denied attacking Ghent, telling Entertainment Tonight, “I never laid my hands on that woman.” He has also denied the allegations of violence set forth by Ghent in their divorce, claiming that Ghent was attempting to blackmail him.
On May 6, 2012, Howard allegedly assaulted his ex-girlfriend, May Seng Yang of Plymouth Meeting, at his Lafayette Hill home. The allegation, contained in a civil suit filed last year by Yang’s former lawyer, reads: “Defendant Howard choked [Yang], threw her to the ground and hit her in the left eye with his fist.”
No criminal charges were filed against Howard in that case, and Yang was actually arrested and charged with attacking Howard. These charges were later dropped. The lawyer claims in his suit that Howard then paid Yang $75,000 behind the lawyer’s back “in exchange for signing a Non-Disclosure Statement which obligated her to remain silent about the events of May 6, 2012… .”
Howard’s publicity team received Philadelphia magazine’s request for comment on this story but declined to make a statement by deadline, even after that deadline was extended. When reached for comment on the 2005 incident as well as these other altercations, Howard attorney Edwin Guyer of Blue Bell, Pa., said, “My client has been unjustly accused of acts that never happened.”
UPDATE: As Gawker points out, Howard was also accused of assaulting a female flight attendant in 2000. Those charges were dropped.
[Butler Photo: Associated Press]