Assailant of 'Harold & Kumar' actor sentenced to three years

Kalpen Modi, famous for his portrayal of Kumar in the 'Harold & Kumar' films and his subsequent post as a White House staffer, was mugged in 2010. His assailant was sentenced Friday.

Jamie Trueblood/New Line Cinema/File
Kalpen Modi (l.) stars as Kumar and John Cho stars as Harold in New Line Cinema's release Harold and Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay. Kalpen Modi was mugged in 2010, but his assailant was caught and has now been sentenced to three years.

Among the unwritten rules for Washington street thugs: Never target famous members of the White House staff.

It’s a lesson Marcellus Chambers of the District of Columbia just learned.

At 1:20 a.m. on April 20, 2010, Mr. Chambers and an associate confronted Kalpen Modi on “S” Street in the nation’s capital.

Mr. Modi is the associate director of the White House Office of Public Engagement and the Obama administration’s Liaison to Young Americans.

Had Mr. Chambers and his associate looked closer, they might have also recognized Modi as the actor Kal Penn.

Mr. Penn – playing Kumar – is perhaps best known for having survived a tumultuous trip to White Castle with sidekick Harold in the film aptly titled, "Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle." In a sequel, the pair also managed to escape the terror detention camp at Guantanamo Bay.

If Chambers recognized “Kumar,” he wasn’t impressed. The young man produced a semiautomatic pistol, aimed it at Modi’s chest, and pulled the slide back. According to police, Modi asked what he wanted. “Everything,” Chambers replied.

After surrendering his wallet, Modi was ordered to lay face down in the street. The assailant took his cell phone and then fled on foot.

Local police, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and members of the Secret Service took up the case. They began to track purchases on Modi’s credit cards. Chambers was arrested in June 2010 and pleaded guilty in April 2011 to charges of robbery and assault with a dangerous weapon.

This week, he was sentenced to three years and four months in prison.

Modi left the White House temporarily in June 2010 to work on another Harold and Kumar film – “A Very Harold and Kumar Christmas.” This month, Modi is slated to depart the White House for a role on the television comedy “How I Met Your Mother.”

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