News & Views » Columns

Jack White’s spittle spat



News Hits learned a few things watching Jack White’s performance at a Detroit courthouse last week.

Lesson No.1: If the leader of the White Stripes ever wants to engage you in a conversation, you’d do well to chat along.

Lesson No. 2: A little spittle can be an honorable thing.

White, along with about a dozen print, TV and radio journalists, spent much of last Tuesday hanging out in the halls of Detroit’s 36th District Court; White’s lawyers were negotiating a plea deal that hit a few temporary snags. When it all got untangled, White, 28, pleaded guilty to one misdemeanor count of assault and battery. He originally was charged with aggravated assault, a felony that carries a potential maximum penalty of one year behind bars and/or a $1,000 fine. Instead of heading to the pokey, White’s penalty for pummeling Von Bondies’ singer Jason Stollsteimer at a Detroit music club in December was anger management classes and $750 in fines and court costs. He’s also prohibited from initiating contact with Stollsteimer.

For the deal to go through, White had to provide Judge Paula G. Humphries with his account of the incident. In White’s view, Stollsteimer had dissed him in the press, and White was looking to talk things out, mano a mano. But Stollsteimer wasn’t interested in any chitchat. Which made White spitting mad. Literally. After telling the judge he spat on Stollsteimer, White’s testimony devolved into what sounds like a bad joke, the one with a punch line that reads: He hammered my fist with his face. With face straight, White told the judge that as he and Stollsteimer tussled, the two fell to the floor, and Stollsteimer’s face landed on his fist. Along with that unfortunate tumble, White emphasized his displeasure with Stollsteimer by swiftly reapplying said fist to said face a few more times.

Afterward, White, nattily dressed in the same black tie, shirt and pinstripe suit he wore to his last court appearance, read from a prepared statement he’d jotted down on a piece of note paper and tucked into the crown of his black fedora.

“I was raised to believe that honor and integrity mean something and that those principles are worth defending,” White told reporters. “That’s the way I live my life.”

News Hits wanted to ask him exactly where spittle projectiles fit in with that code of honor, but White wasn’t taking any questions. We’d guess it ranks somewhat below slapping an adversary in the face with a glove and challenging him to a duel at dawn, but News Hits is old school that way.

White also expressed remorse, not for sending Stollsteimer to the hospital to be treated for his blackened eyes and bloody nose, but rather for allowing himself to be “provoked” into a fight.

Like we said, remember Lesson No. 1: If Jack wants to engage you in a conversation, start talking. You wouldn’t want to provoke him.

One of White’s lawyers, Wally Piszczatowski, extended this blame-the-victim implication by stating: “Had Jason decided to talk to Jack, we might not have been here today.”

The Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office issued a statement assuring everyone that the garage rock god had received no special treatment, and that the plea deal he worked out is typical. We checked with the Legal Aid and Defenders Association, which agreed with that assessment.

The anger management classes will be with a counselor of White’s choosing. It’s up to the counselor to determine exactly how much management the Jackster’s anger needs.

Contact News Hits at 313-202-8004 or

We welcome readers to submit letters regarding articles and content in Detroit Metro Times. Letters should be a minimum of 150 words, refer to content that has appeared on Detroit Metro Times, and must include the writer's full name, address, and phone number for verification purposes. No attachments will be considered. Writers of letters selected for publication will be notified via email. Letters may be edited and shortened for space.

Email us at

Support Local Journalism.
Join the Detroit Metro Times Press Club

Local journalism is information. Information is power. And we believe everyone deserves access to accurate independent coverage of their community and state. Our readers helped us continue this coverage in 2020, and we are so grateful for the support.

Help us keep this coverage going in 2021. Whether it's a one-time acknowledgement of this article or an ongoing membership pledge, your support goes to local-based reporting from our small but mighty team.

Join the Metro Times Press Club for as little as $5 a month.