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Thursday, May 30, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Actor Appears in Court|on Assault Charge

PARK CITY, Utah (CN) - "Into The Wild" star Emile Hirsch appeared in court Monday on charges that he choked a female studio executive and dragged her across a nightclub table during the Sundance Film Festival.

Hirsch, clean-shaven and in a black suit, did not address reporters and did not enter a plea.

The 30-year-old actor was accompanied by attorney Neil Kaplan.

According to documents in Summit County District Court, Hirsch approached Daniele Bernfeld, an executive with Paramount's Insurge Pictures, at Tao Nightclub in Park City on Jan. 25, and asked why she looked "so tough."

Hirsch, who appeared to be drunk, called Bernfeld a "rich kid" who should not be at Sundance, she said after the alleged attack.

"Hirsch grabbed Bernfeld but she pushed him away. Hirsch left the area with some friends and Bernfeld sat down at a table to talk with a friend," a police report states.

"Shortly thereafter Hirsch came up from behind Bernfeld and wrapped his arm around her to put her in a chokehold. Hirsch pulled Bernfeld across the table and onto the floor, where he landed on top of her. While Hirsch was on top of Bernfeld he wrapped his hands around her neck. Bernfeld said she felt as though the front and back of her throat were touching and she remembers things going dark."

Bernfeld "may have momentarily blacked out," she said. Two bystanders allegedly pulled Hirsch off of her.

A witness corroborated the account and said Bernfeld was "shaking and crying."

Sgt. Jay Randall, who responded to the 3:52 a.m. assault call at the Pop-Up Club on Main Street, said he saw redness on Bernfeld's neck and chest.

Randall said Hirsch, who waived his Miranda rights, told him that he had a "verbal confrontation" with Bernfeld and that he had consumed "three to four alcoholic beverages."

Randall said Hisch's eyes were red and glassy, his balance poor, and that he slurred "some" words.

Hirsch was charged with aggravated assault, a third-degree felony, and intoxication, a class C misdemeanor

If convicted, he faces up to five years in the Utah State Prison and a $5,000 fine.

Hirsch immediately checked into rehab after the incident, attorney Robert Offer said in a statement.

"Emile consumed an enormous amount of alcohol on the evening in question and he has no memory of what happened," Offer said.

"Emile takes these allegations very seriously, and is devastated that any of this has occurred."

Hirsch was at the independent film festival for the premiere of "Ten Thousand Saints," in which he appears with Ethan Hawke.

He has appeared in a slew of films, including "Into The Wild, "Milk" and "Lords of Dogtown."

Hirsch, from Encino, Calif., is not required to attend the next hearing, on April 13.

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