Hollywood actor Vin Diesel, known for his fast-paced action movies, is facing a sexual battery lawsuit filed by his former assistant, Asta Jonasson.
The actor, 56, born Mark Sinclair, is accused of sexual battery, a hostile work environment, wrongful termination and the intentional infliction of emotional distress, among other complaints, according to a lawsuit filed in Los Angeles on Thursday. Lawyers for Vin Diesel denied the claims.
Jonasson alleges in the claim that Vin Diesel “sexually assaulted” her in 2010 in a suite at the St. Regis Hotel in Atlanta, while he was on location filming “Fast Five” — part of the billion dollar “Fast and Furious” film franchise.
“Vin Diesel forcibly grabbed Ms. Jonasson, groped her breasts, and kissed her. Ms. Jonasson struggled continually to break free of his grasp, while repeatedly saying no,” the suit said.
It added that he continued to ignore her “clear statements of non-consent to his sexual assaults,” and tried to pull down her underwear, causing her to scream and run to a nearby bathroom before the actor “pinned her against the wall with his body, and grabbed Ms. Jonasson’s hand and placed it on his erect penis.”
The lawsuit claims that Vin Diesel went on to pull “his penis out of his underwear and began to masturbate, while leaning against Ms. Jonasson and keeping her pinned to the wall with the left side of his body. Ms. Jonasson was unable to escape and closed her eyes,” it said.
The actor then left the hotel suite and Jonasson alleges that she received a call hours later from his sister, Samantha Vincent informing her that her employment was terminated.
At the time “Jonasson felt like she was a piece of trash to be discarded,” the suit said, her “self-esteem was demolished.”
Vin Diesel’s attorney Bryan Freedman said in an emailed statement that his client strongly denies all allegations.
“Let me be very clear Vin Diesel categorically denies this claim in its entirety,” Freedman said.
“This is the first he has ever heard about this more than 13 year old claim made by a purportedly 9 day employee. There is clear evidence which completely refutes these outlandish allegations,” he added.
The suit said part of Jonasson’s assistant duties had been organizing parties, catering and providing “cover” at events by standing close to Vin Diesel when he was being photographed.
The suit said Jonasson had remained silent for years “afraid to speak out against one of the world’s highest-grossing actors, afraid she would be ostracized from the industry which had a pattern of protecting powerful men and silencing survivors of sexual harassment.” She also feared jeopardizing her citizenship as a Green Card holder, it said, adding she had been “empowered by the #MeToo and Time’s Up movements,” to speak out.
The global movements began in 2017 and saw Hollywood stars and producers imprisoned and fired under pressure after women spoke out about sexual harassment and abuse. The momentum also spread to politics, media and other professions.
“Ms. Jonasson is unwilling to remain silent any longer and seeks to reclaim her agency and justice for the suffering she endured at the hands of Vin Diesel and One Race,” the lawsuit said. She is now seeking a jury trial.
Her attorney, Claire-Lise Kutlay, said in an emailed statement that Jonasson’s suit sought to “hold Vin Diesel and those who allowed and covered up his sexual assault accountable for their egregious actions.”
“The law exists to protect those who have been wronged, no matter how powerful or famous the defendant is,” Kutlay said. “Sexual harassment in the workplace will never stop if powerful men are shielded from accountability.”
Vin Diesel is best known for playing “Dominic Toretto” a charismatic street racer in the car-aficionado movies that he stars in and produces — the latest installment, “Fast X,” premiered in May. He has also been featured in the movie “Riddick” and voiced the character Groot in the “Guardians of the Galaxy.”
Samantha Chery contributed to this report.