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Sexual Harassment

Vin Diesel accused of sexual battery in lawsuit by former assistant

user avatar Author: Editors Desk Source: The Guardian
December 21, 2023 at 21:18
Vin Diesel poses during the premiere of Fast and Furious 8, in Paris, on 5 April 2017. Photograph: Thibault Camus/AP
Vin Diesel poses during the premiere of Fast and Furious 8, in Paris, on 5 April 2017. Photograph: Thibault Camus/AP

Asta Jonasson alleges Fast and Furious actor assaulted her in 2010 in Atlanta hotel during Fast Five filming

he actor Vin Diesel, of the Fast and Furious franchise, has been accused of sexual battery by a former assistant in a lawsuit filed on Thursday.

The incident allegedly occurred during the filming of Fast Five in 2010, according to the lawsuit, which was first reported by Vanity Fair. Asta Jonasson said that the actor forced himself on her while she was working as his assistant. Hours after the alleged assault, she was fired, the lawsuit states.

Jonasson is suing the actor, his production company and his sister, who works as the president of One Race Productions, for alleged gender-based discrimination, hostile work environment, retaliation and wrongful termination.

Jonasson’s attorney, Claire-Lise Kutlay, said in a statement that her client’s lawsuit seeks to hold Diesel and those who “allowed and covered up his sexual assault, accountable for their egregious actions”.

Diesel’s representatives did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

According to the lawsuit, Jonasson, who had experience working for production companies and “ultra-high-net-worth actors”, was hired by One Race in September 2010 to work as Diesel’s assistant. She immediately traveled to the Fast Five set in Atlanta, where she organized parties and “catered” to the actor’s demands, which included staying close to him so he had “cover” while attending parties without his girlfriend in case he was photographed with other women.

One evening soon after Jonasson arrived, the lawsuit claims, Diesel’s security called her and said he was not answering the phone but needed to leave his room at the St Regis hotel. When she informed Diesel, the naked actor pulled her onto his bed, the lawsuit states. Jonasson told him to stop and fought to escape his grasp, according to the suit, eventually running out of the bedroom toward the door.

He allegedly demanded she not open the door and forcibly hugged Jonasson, who said in the lawsuit she had been afraid for her safety and her job. Diesel groped her and forcibly kissed her as she pleaded with him to stop, the complaint states, continuing that he “molested her body” and tried to remove her underwear.

She screamed and ran toward the bathroom, knocking the actor down, but he stood up and pinned her to the wall with his body, according to the complaint. Diesel allegedly forced her to touch his erect penis while she verbally refused, and then he masturbated.

“Terrified, Ms Jonasson closed her eyes, trying to dissociate from the sexual assault and avoid angering him,” the suit states.

The alleged assault came days after an unnamed One Race supervisor made sexual overtures to Jonasson, according to the suit. The supervisor allegedly instructed her to come to his hotel room, where he took off his clothes and got into bed, telling her: “Come here.” She immediately left, the suit states. That person was not included in the lawsuit.

Hours after the alleged assault by Diesel, Jonasson received a call from Diesel’s sister, Samantha Vincent, terminating her employment despite the fact that she had received praise for her work, according to the complaint.

“The message was clear. Ms Jonasson was fired for courageously resisting Vin Diesel’s sexual assault, Vin Diesel would be protected, and his sexual assault covered up,” the lawsuit states.

“Ms Jonasson felt helpless, her self-esteem was demolished, and she questioned her own skills and whether a successful career would require her to trade her body for advancement.”

Kutlay, Jonasson’s lawyer, said employers must protect and defend those who speak up about sexual assault and harassment. “We hope Ms Jonasson’s courageous decision to come forward helps create lasting change and empowers other survivors,” Kutlay said.

Jonasson continued working in film and television but did not speak out for fear that she would be ostracized from an industry “which had a pattern of protecting powerful men and silencing survivors”. She decided to speak out after feeling empowered by the #MeToo and Time’s Up movements as well as new legislation, the suit says.

Associated Press contributed to this report.

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