Double-take in New York as a man called Denzel Washington strangles his mother - Aretha Franklin

The real Denzel Washington helped celebrate the real Aretha Franklin's 72nd birthday

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The Independent US

It might be worth a cursory giggle if the person being booked for a crime of violence shares the name with a celebrity. But it becomes laugh-out-loud when that goes for the victim as well.

This was the case for the criminal courts in New York this week dealing with a non-fatal case of a son strangling his mother. The perpetrator, who took a plea deal on Wednesday, entered his name as Denzel Washington and the mother he assaulted was none other than Aretha Franklin.

Well, she was no more the real Queen of Soul than her son was the real Oscar-winning actor and star of films like Training Day, The Magnificent Seven and Flight. That would have been a story fit to eclipse even the parting of ways between Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie.

If being a real celebrity can bring special strains on domestic harmony then perhaps merely having the names of two of the most famous African American artists in the country can have something of the same effect too.

But if detectives first handling the case reacted with disbelief when they entered the name first of the accused perpetrator and then of the alleged victim into their note pads, they shouldn’t have done. Those really are their names. 

“I am informed by Aretha Franklin,” the criminal complaint in the case says, “that she observed the defendant place his hands around her neck and apply pressure, thereby causing redness, bruising and substantial pain to her neck.”

Mr Washington took a plea of harassment as violation and was sentenced to conditional discharge and enrollment in a supervised anger management programme.

Diligent research established that Ms Franklin the victim, who is 52 years old, is not a relation, however far removed, from the other Ms Franklin. Nor can the New York Mr Washington lay any claim to family ties with the other, somewhat more successful, Mr Washington. 

The altercation between son and mother happened in a doorman building on West 93rd Street on the well-to-do Upper West Side of Manhattan. There is another case that is still open in the New York courts involving alleged trespassing by Mr Washington in his mother’s home.

Mr Washington is, by coincidence, a close friend of Ms Franklin. (Not mother and son, the other ones.) Indeed, he was on hand to help the Motown icon celebrate her 72nd birthday at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel in Manhattan three years ago.

New York fans of the older Ms Franklin were recently disappointed when she cancelled a concert that had been scheduled for 26 September at Radio City Music Hall in Manhattan due to an ongoing illness.  The Queen of Soul has backed out of a number of concerts in North America for the same reason, rescheduling some for spring of next year.