Jonathan Majors’ Lawyer Is Throwing Everything at the Wall
On Tuesday morning, Jonathan Majors appeared virtually for his latest hearing in Manhattan Criminal Court, following his March arrest and being charged with multiple misdemeanor counts of assault and harassment, allegedly for assaulting a woman police identified as his girlfriend. The hearing itself was uneventful: Majors spoke only to confirm that he agreed to appear virtually, the district attorney revealed to the public a superseding complaint in Majors’ case involving a third-degree assault charge, and Majors was informed of a June 13 hearing that will require him to appear in court in person. (The superseding information removes the allegation that Majors’ “put his hand on her neck”). If he doesn’t show up, the judge warned, he could face arrest.
In the wake of the hearing, Majors’ attorney, Priya Chaudhry, released an alarming statement drawing extensively from typical tactics used by those defending men accused of abuse. She referred to the charges against Majors as a “witch hunt” reflecting a racist criminal legal system. She previously implied his alleged victim was suffering from an emotional crisis and said that Majors called 9-1-1 out of concern for her mental health.
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“This is a witch hunt against Jonathan Majors, driven by baseless claims,” said Chaudhry, who has a fairly lengthy history of defending famous men accused of abuse (including screenwriter Paul Haggis, who was found liable for three counts of rape and sexual abuse last year). She alleged that the Manhattan district attorney is essentially conspiring with the plaintiff, claiming “the DA has adjusted the charges to match the woman’s new lies,” in apparent reference to the revised complaint language made public on Tuesday. “This glaring double standard between the treatment of Jonathan Majors, a Black man weighing 200 lbs, and his accuser, highlights the racial bias that permeates the criminal justice system,” she added. Racial double standards absolutely exist within the criminal legal system, but we can’t allow that reality to be weaponized against victims, many of whom are women of color.
At this point, Chaudhry’s comments feel increasingly desperate, as if Majors’ legal team is throwing everything at the wall to see what sticks. This latest slate of claims about Majors’ alleged victim and his case—that it’s a “witch hunt,” that Majors is a victim of a racist system, that his alleged victim had mental health issues—comes after Chaudhry claimed Majors’ alleged victim had been the one to assault him.
At the end of last month, Chaudhry claimed Majors consented to his alleged victim being granted a restraining order (as if his consent were even needed) because he “wants nothing to do with the woman who assaulted him.” On the night of Majors’ arrest, the police report stated that the woman sustained injuries to her head and neck that suggested strangulation and resulted in her hospitalization. (The strangulation charge has since been dropped.) In March, shortly after Majors’ arrest, Chaudry shared a series of screenshots of texts allegedly between him and the woman, in which she references her injuries and seems to claim they were her “fault for trying to grab your phone.”
In Chaudhry’s Tuesday statement, she claimed Majors had also sustained injuries, but that cops “taunted” him when he tried to show them. She also said: “We have provided the District Attorney with irrefutable evidence that the woman is lying, including video proof showing nothing happened, especially not where she claimed. … To be clear, there are no new charges against Mr. Majors.” She went on to say that: “None of the white officers present investigated the assault of Mr. Majors. Worse, the District Attorney has not indicated any intention to pursue charges against the woman, or even investigate the truth.”
All of this builds upon a tactic Majors’ legal team seems to be leaning into called DARVO (Deny, Attack, and Reverse Victim and Offender) by domestic violence experts. DARVO, the driving strategy in Johnny Depp’s legal battle against ex-wife Amber Heard, relies on widespread misunderstanding about the complexities of abuse, which often results in victims’ reactions to abuse being equated with abuse or inaccurately framed as “mutual abuse.” Counsel for Majors told Jezebel that they’re “presenting cold hard facts” and dispute any allegation that their defense is disingenuous.
In recent weeks, according to several reports, multiple women who say they were abused by Majors have agreed to cooperate with the Manhattan DA.
Majors’ team has also heavily pushed the narrative that his alleged victim isn’t credible because her behavior contradicts that of a supposedly perfect victim: In April, Majors’ team shared video footage with the New York County Criminal Court that they claimed showed the woman partying after the alleged attack, as if victims have to act a certain way after an assault to be believed. Counsel for Majors told Jezebel the surveillance footage was not released as “some kind of character attack.” Rather, they said, it “flatly contradicts her story of abuse [and] shows conclusively that the complainant was displaying no signs whatsoever of any injuries.”
As this case develops, it’s concerning how reliant his team is on furthering harmful narratives about people who allege abuse, but there is some comfort in the fact that these tactics haven’t yet proven particularly effective: Majors’ alleged victim has a restraining order, and he’s been dropped by a number of brands and projects he was working on, as well as his PR team and management.
Update: This story has been updated to include more of Chaudhry’s Tuesday statement as well as responses from Jonathan Majors’ counsel provided after publication.
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