Jonathan Majors assault trial starts with competing versions of confrontation
The opening statements focused on whether the actor assaulted his former girlfriend after she read a text sent to his phone by another woman.
Actor Jonathan Majors listened silently as a Manhattan prosecutor and his defence lawyer offered competing accounts of a violent confrontation in the back seat of a car that led to assault charges against the film star and put his rapid Hollywood ascent on pause.
The opening statements in the New York trial against Majors centred on whether the actor assaulted his former girlfriend, Grace Jabbari, after she read a romantic text message sent to his phone by another woman.
Prosecutors say Majors grabbed the woman’s hand so hard he fractured her middle finger, then twisted her arm behind her back and struck her on the side of the head – the latest outburst in an alleged pattern of physical and emotional abuse.
A lawyer for Majors argued that her client was the true victim, claiming he was left bloodied by the attack, while she spent the rest of the night clubbing.
That the competing versions of the struggle were presented to a jury was itself unusual, a rare instance of a misdemeanour assault case going to trial.
For Majors, a 34-year-old rising star, the stakes may be higher than the one year in prison he could face if convicted.
In her opening statements, his lawyer Priya Chaudhry referenced Majors’ breakout roles in Creed III and his emergence as a key supervillain in the Marvel multiverse, adding that his career “seemed unstoppable until he ended his relationship with Ms Jabbari and she, hours later, made these false allegations”.
Since the allegations in March, Majors has seen some of his work pulled or postponed, including the highly anticipated release of the Sundance award-winning film Magazine Dreams.
Describing Ms Jabbari as a jilted lover who sought to derail her partner’s career as revenge, Ms Chaudhry also invoked Majors’ race – he is black, Ms Jabbari is white – as a potential reason that he was arrested the day after the confrontation.
Assistant district attorney Michael Perez told jurors the alleged assault was the culmination of a “cruel and manipulative pattern of psychological and physical abuse” that Majors directed at his partner of two years.
The trial, he said, would show that Majors “demanded total compliance” from his girlfriend, at one point telling her that she needed to maintain the same standards as Michelle Obama or Coretta Scott King.
In addition to the struggle inside the vehicle, both prosecution and defence offered differing narratives about the aftermath of the alleged assault.
Once the driver pulled over, Majors fled the scene with his phone as Ms Jabbari chased him “on foot, through traffic, like in a movie”, according to Ms Chaudhry.
Unable to find Majors, she met three strangers and followed them to a Manhattan nightclub, where she spent the next few hours drinking and dancing, the defence lawyer said.
Mr Perez said Majors picked Ms Jabbari up and threw her inside the car on multiple occasions after the driver pulled over.
He said she accepted the invitation of bystanders in the hopes of “temporarily blocking out” the abuse committed by Majors.
She returned home after a few hours at the nightclub, took two sleeping pills and fell asleep on the floor of her bathroom, he said.
Ms Jabbari awoke the next morning to Majors standing over her with police officers, initially reluctant to report the abuse “because of how he’s manipulated her in the past and trained her to stay silent”, Mr Perez said.
She was admitted to hospital with minor injuries.
Six months later, she was arrested by police after Majors brought a counter-claim against her for assaulting him in the vehicle.
Those charges were dismissed by the Manhattan DA the following day.
Mr Perez referenced the arrest on Monday, telling jurors that Majors’ “attempts to control and intimidate Ms Jabbari extended well after he assaulted her”.
Ms Jabbari is expected to give evidence against her former partner in the coming days.