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Jonathan Majors convicted of reckless assault and harassment

Famous Hollywood actor Jonathan Majors was convicted today by a Manhattan jury of having previously assaulted his ex-girlfriend, Grace Jabbari, following almost two days of jury deliberations. Specifically, the jury concluded that Mr. Majors was guilty of reckless assault in violation of New York Penal Law Section 120.00 (Assault in the Third Degree, a Class A misdemeanor) and harassment in violation of Penal Law Section 240.26 (Harassment in the Second Degree). The first charge is a crime under N.Y. state law (the second is not – it is classified as a non-criminal offense) and carries with it a maximum penalty of one year in jail. The more serious charge – Assault in the Third Degree – stems from Mr. Majors allegedly causing substantial physical pain or a physical injury to Ms. Jabbari, and doing so recklessly, though not deliberately or intentionally.

The trial judge will now be responsible for sentencing Mr. Majors. The defense lawyers may ask that the trial court overturn the jury’s verdict, but those sorts of motions are rarely granted. Instead, the defense lawyers will need to concern themselves for now with persuading the judge to impose a non-jail sentence. The court could sentence Mr. Majors for as much as one year in jail, which he would have to serve at the notorious prison on Rikers Island. However, the court could instead impose a sentence of up to three years’ probation (which would restrict his ability to travel, even for work), or other conditions like anger management or counseling. The defense attorneys will likely propose some sort of counseling program with community service and beg the court to not sentence him to probation so that he can travel to filming locations without interruption or complication. Obviously, this conviction may ruin his Hollywood career, as certain projects have already been put on hold or suspended as producers awaited the outcome of this trial.

If one had to predict, one would not expect the court to impose a jail sentence in a reckless assault case. First, Mr. Majors has no criminal history, which tends to militate strongly against jail sentences in relatively minor cases. Furthermore, the injuries sustained by Mr. Jabbari appeared to be relatively minor on the spectrum of assault cases; certainly, many assault trials involve much more serious injuries resulting in hospitalizations and/or permanent disabilities. Mr. Majors is a prominent person and the court might want to make an example of him, but he is also potentially able to do something positive for the community, as well. So, I would predict some sort of combination of anger management and community service, along with an order of protection in favor of Ms. Jabbari. The big question really is whether Mr. Majors will be sentenced to a period of probation, which would be a huge hindrance for his career.

The verdict is somewhat surprising here. There was some evidence that tended to suggest that Mr. Majors was a victim of Ms. Jabbari’s aggression. Indeed, he filed a report against Mr. Jabbari that did originally result in her arrest, as well. Moreover, an Uber driver who shuttled the two of them together about the time of the assault offered the opinion that Ms. Jabbari was initiating the conflict. It’s always difficult to second-guess strategic decisions made by attorneys in the trial, but Mr. Majors’ decision not to take the stand almost certainly cost him. Courts also instruct juries not to infer guilt from a defendant’s decision not to testify, but the jury had to perplexed by the fact that a charismatic stage and film actor would sit silently at the defense table and let his attorney make the case that he was a victim, without saying it himself.

Mr. Majors will be able to pursue an appeal if he so chooses, but appeals courts are loath to overturn verdicts based upon the facts. Typically, questions of guilt or innocence are entrusted to the jury, as are assessments of witness credibility. Those decisions usually remain undisturbed. If the defense can make the argument that the trial court made an improper legal ruling that had a material effect on the outcome, then they may have a chance on appeal. But there’s nothing in the record here that stands out as particularly controversial, in terms of legal decisions made by the court during the trial. So, it is more likely than not that this judgment will be affirmed on appeal.

The author of this article, Matthew Galluzzo, is a criminal defense attorney and former Manhattan prosecutor. As a prosecutor, he was a supervisor in the domestic violence bureau of the New York County District Attorney’s Office, the same office that prosecuted Jonathan Majors in this case. He was worked as an appellate prosecutor responding to criminal appeals, and later prosecuted murders and sex crimes cases. In 2023, in recognition of his service to the French government and his successful representation of dozens of French citizens, he was knighted by the nation of France and is now a Chevalier in the French Order of Merit.

 

 

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