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Actor Emile Hirsch appears in US court on assault charge

16 March 2015, 21:57

Utah - Actor Emile Hirsch made his first court appearance Monday on allegations that he put a studio executive in a chokehold and dragged her across a nightclub table while in Utah for the Sundance Film Festival.

The "Into the Wild" star declined to comment Monday outside court in Park City.

His attorney Neil Kaplan said Hirsch is receiving counseling after going to rehab.

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The actor from Encino, California, is charged with felony assault, which is punishable by up to five years in prison and a $5,000 fine. He also faces a misdemeanor count of intoxication.

Hirsch, who turned 30 on Friday, was clean-shaven and wore a tight-fitting black suit with a white shirt and black tie. He stared straight ahead as he walked through a small gaggle of reporters, photographers and onlookers at the courthouse. He was flanked by two attorneys and a friend.

After his brief appearance before state Judge Kara Petitt, Hirsch was instructed to walk next door to the sheriff's office to get his mug shot taken. He isn't required to be at the next hearing, set for April 13.

Hirsch may also be excused from other upcoming hearings, a concession often granted to out-of-state defendants who are cooperating, said Summit County prosecutor Ryan Stack. Stack said he had no comment on a possible plea deal.

The woman Hirsch is accused of assaulting on Jan. 25 is Daniele Bernfeld, an executive for the Paramount Pictures subsidiary Insurge Pictures.

Efforts to reach Bernfeld and her employer were unsuccessful. Insurge Pictures distributed the Ben Stiller-produced Web comedy "Burning Love," which also was on E! cable network.

Hirsch lawyer Robert Offer has said the actor was drinking alcohol and doesn't remember what happened that night. Offer also said last month that Hirsch checked into rehab within days of the incident.

Offer was not immediately available for comment Monday.

Hirsch is best known for his "Into the Wild" role. He also appeared in Universal's Navy SEAL drama "Lone Survivor," Peter Berg's account of a disastrous 2005 military operation in Afghanistan.

Hirsch was at Sundance for the premiere of the drama "Ten Thousand Saints," in which he appears alongside Ethan Hawke and Asa Butterfield.

Court documents say the altercation at Tao Nightclub in Park City occurred when Hirsch, looking drunk, approached Bernfeld and asked why she looked "so tough."

He also told Bernfeld she was a "rich kid who should not be at Sundance," the documents say.

Investigators say Hirsch grabbed Bernfeld, and she pushed him away. He left and sat with friends before returning and grabbing the woman from behind, the documents say.

Authorities say Hirsch put the woman in a chokehold and pulled her across a table before landing on top of her on the floor.

Bernfeld told authorities she saw things going dark and might have blacked out momentarily.

Hirsch told police at the time that he didn't know Bernfeld but was having an argument with her.

- AP


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