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11-28-08, 10:16 AM #1
Pedestrian activist pianist killed by SUV-driving rapper in fit of road rage
After midnight Sunday, John Osnes, a pianist who performed jazz standards and Beatles songs at piano bars in Hollywood, put an empty glass down on the counter of one of his favorite haunts, The Spotlight, and waved goodbye to an employee.
"He said, 'Benji, I will see you tomorrow for sure,' " bartender Benjamin Avery recalled.
An hour later, Osnes, 55, lay dying in a crosswalk a few blocks away, the victim, police say, of a violent road rage attack by a Swedish hip-hop artist.
The rapper, David Moses Jassy, also known as Dave Monopoly, 34, made a brief appearance in Superior Court on Wednesday. His arraignment was postponed a week to allow him to hire an attorney.
According to authorities, Osnes, who did not own a car and was a stickler for pedestrian rights, was crossing a street near his residence when Jassy's rented SUV drifted into the crosswalk. After Osnes struck the front of the vehicle with his hands, Jassy allegedly got out, punched Osnes, kicked him in the head when he stooped to recover his glasses and then ran over him with the vehicle. Bystanders, including an off-duty Anaheim police officer, witnessed the assault and tried unsuccessfully to detain Jassy, according to authorities.
Osnes was pronounced dead at a hospital, and Jassy was arrested Monday after investigators traced the license of his rented vehicle.
He faces charges of assault, battery and leaving the scene of an accident, but the district attorney's office is mulling additional counts depending on autopsy results and further investigation.
Although he identifies himself as the "CEO of Jassy World Entertainment" on his MySpace page, Jassy is a minor music industry player whose biggest accomplishment to date is rapping on an album track for "High School Musical" actress Ashley Tisdale.
Avery, the bartender, came to court for the short hearing, in part, he said, to see what sort of man would hurt Osnes, who he described as rail-thin and "frail." Jail records show that Jassy outweighed Osnes -- who friends say weighed about 150 -- by 50 pounds.
"I guess I was expecting someone who was really gangster or homeless, but he doesn't appear that way," Avery said of Jassy, a trim man with light eyes and a shaved head.
Before the short hearing, Jassy huddled in a holding pen with a public defender, an interpreter and a representative from the Swedish Consulate. When he spotted a contingent of journalists from his homeland, some armed with video and still cameras, he pulled his blue jail-issue shirt over his head and kept it there as Commissioner Henry Hall asked if he agreed to the postponement.
"Yes," he shouted through the shirt.
The public defender said Jassy planned to meet with a private attorney in jail after the hearing. If he makes his $1-million bail, Hall said, Jassy will be required to turn over his passport and wear an electronic tracking device.
Osnes never owned a car, and friends and relatives said inconsiderate drivers were his pet peeve.
"He was a very strong advocate for pedestrians," said his sister-in-law, Darcy Bushnell.
Bushnell attended the hearing on behalf of Osnes' father and sisters. Her partner, Osnes' sister Kris, is in "end-stage" emphysema and is awaiting a lung transplant at their home in Albuquerque, Bushnell said. She said that despite his piano gigs and part-time work as a travel agent, Osnes made time every day to speak with his ailing sister.
"He was instrumental in keeping her from feeling lonely," Bushnell said, her eyes reddening. She said Kris Osnes is trying to balance her grief with her illness, because "if she cries, she can't breathe."
By Harriet Ryan
Ryan is a Times staff writer.
Times staff writer Geoff Boucher contributed to this report.
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