Jonathan Majors’s arrest and conviction, explained 

Jonathan Majors, pictured at the European premiere of Creed III in London on February 15, 2023. | Jeff Spicer/Getty Images for Warner Bros

The once-rising star has been dropped by Marvel and faces up to a year in jail.

After a three-week trial and two days of jury deliberation, Jonathan Majors, the Emmy-nominated star of Lovecraft Country and Creed III, has been found guilty on charges of misdemeanor assault and harassment. Majors was arrested in New York in March 2023 over a reported domestic dispute with Grace Jabbari, his girlfriend at the time. Majors fractured Jabbari’s finger during the incident.

The initial charges came as a deep shock to fans, given that Majors’s public persona during his storied rise through Hollywood has purveyed a soft-spoken, sensitive masculinity. Yet the subsequent court process and battle for public opinion unearthed multiple allegations against Majors for abuse and domestic violence and a long history of allegedly controlling and aggressive behavior.

The jury verdict comes less than a week after Manhattan Criminal Court Judge Michael Gaffey unexpectedly released a cache of evidence in the case to the public, including video evidence of the dispute showing Majors lifting Jabbari and forcing her back into an SUV they had exited, as well as a 911 call Majors made after the incident. The court also released photos of numerous injuries Jabbari suffered and an audio clip of Majors from a different incident in 2022, in which he berated Jabbari for getting drunk, claimed to be “a great man,” and urged her to support him the way Coretta Scott King or Michelle Obama supported their husbands.

Majors faces up to one year in jail for the conviction. The jury acquitted him on more serious charges of intentional assault in the third degree and aggravated harassment in the second degree.

The verdict likely spells the end of Majors’s brief but critically acclaimed career, which saw him move rapidly from early success at Yale’s drama school to Hollywood A-list status. It also delivers yet another blow to the beleaguered Marvel Cinematic Universe, which had previously planned an entire new phase of films around Majors as the villain Kang. Though Marvel had stayed conspicuously silent about the controversy over Majors until Monday’s verdict, it dropped the actor from all upcoming film projects Monday afternoon.

Majors’s arrest halted a rapidly ascendant career

A lifelong army brat, Majors spent his childhood hopping across the country between various military bases with his family. He had a rough adolescence and credits theater for pulling him out of his rut; he majored in theater at the University of North Carolina School of the Arts and went on to get a master’s from Yale. While there, he quickly found his way into the industry and won critical acclaim for 2019’s Last Black Man in San Francisco. Since then, his career had been constantly on the ascent — until the morning of March 25, when Majors and Jabbari broke into a fight in a car as they returned from a night out in Brooklyn.

TMZ broke the story on the afternoon after Majors’s March arrest, reporting that Majors had been receiving texts from other women, which angered Jabbari and led to a confrontation. We now know that Majors called the police out of stated concern for his girlfriend, whom he found unconscious at their home the morning after the incident. Upon arriving at the scene after the 911 call, police observed “minor injuries” to Jabbari’s head and neck and arrested Majors.

Majors was released without bond on March 25 on an order of protection (a restraining order) and was arraigned the next day, but the strangulation charge was not included. A later version of Jabbari’s statement removed the strangulation allegation and instead claimed that Majors shoved her into the side of a car — the incident we see on the recently released video footage.

As the parties awaited a trial date that kept getting delayed, accusations flew back and forth between Majors’s and Jabbari’s legal teams. A statement released shortly after the incident by Majors’s attorney, Priya Chaudhry, asserted that Majors was the victim, claiming both that Jabbari had recanted her accusations in two written statements — a claim the prosecution later strenuously rejected — and that video footage and other witness testimony would support Majors. The statement further claimed that Jabbari was in the middle of an “emotional crisis” at the time of the incident, after which she was hospitalized. (Chaudhry was recently in the spotlight for another celebrity criminal case: She represented convicted former Real Housewives of Salt Lake City star Jen Shah on charges of defrauding the elderly.)

On March 30, in an apparent effort to tarnish Jabbari’s credibility, Chaudhry released text messages Jabbari allegedly sent to Majors in which she appears to accept all the blame for the incident: “I told them it was my fault for trying to grab your phone. I only just got out of hospital.” However, her texts are pleading and contradictory, confirming she suffered injuries and giving the impression she’s desperate to avoid further problems. They didn’t exactly exonerate Majors. “They basically look like the text messages of a textbook abused woman,” an anonymous source told Variety.

In court filings in October 2023, the prosecution disputed each of the defense’s claims. It confirmed that Jabbari’s injuries were real and painted the defense as attempting to manufacture the appearance of a retraction on Jabbari’s part by leaking selected texts between her and Majors. Media had also previously reported that police had found probable cause to arrest Jabbari after Majors filed a cross-complaint of assault against her. But no arrest materialized, and the prosecution’s filings subsequently made it clear that the district attorney’s office never seriously considered charging her. However, the prosecution also reportedly insisted in the filing that no video footage of the incident existed — a claim we now know is untrue.

The court proceedings eventually revealed that this wasn’t the only time Majors had been involved in an alleged domestic assault against Jabbari. The October court filing intimated the existence of a previous police report filed in London in 2022, obtained by prosecutors. Few details are currently known about the incident, but the district attorney implied that it could implicate Majors in a previous domestic assault of Jabbari, which resulted in her receiving medical care. The district attorney reportedly also obtained her medical records.

After his arrest, other allegations surfaced

While news of the alleged previous domestic incident made things look ever more dire for Majors, it was far from the first similar allegation he has faced in the wake of the arrest. Shortly after the news of Majors’s arrest broke, social media buzzed with anecdotal reports that Majors had a long and well-known history of abusive behavior in both the Yale and New York theater scenes. Social media users recalled a since-deleted tweet made in February by filmmaker and director’s assistant A.B. Allen. “There’s a particular actor, relatively new on the scene, who Twitter has violently fallen head over heels for,” Allen wrote, “who, in actuality, is a vicious, cruel, abusive human being, both professionally and in his personal life, and every new viral thirst tweet about him drives me insane.”

After the news about Majors broke, Allen appeared to confirm (again in a since-deleted tweet) that the earlier tweet referred to Majors. Allen then clarified that they had known Majors to be “emotionally violent/professionally abusive” but not physically violent.

Actor and stage director Tim Nicolai was even more pointed, alleging in a since-deleted tweet that “folks at Yale and the broader NYC community have known about [Majors] for years.”

“He’s a sociopath and abuser and that is how virtually everyone speaks about him,” Nicolai stated. “It’s a shame it took this long for him to be reported.”

Neither Allen nor Nicolai provided specific allegations of things Majors had done. When asked by multiple social media users why neither of them came forward before this to warn the public about him, both Allen and Nicolai pointed toward their unwillingness to name and involve the people they say Majors harmed. Both have since made their Twitter accounts private.

In April, Variety reported that “multiple alleged abuse victims” of Majors had come forward in the wake of the incident and were working with the district attorney’s office. Then came a sweeping report by Rolling Stone in June 2023 alleging a decade-long pattern of relationships in which Majors was allegedly controlling, manipulative, and in some cases physically abusive.

The Rolling Stone allegations began in 2013 with Majors’s entry into the Yale drama school, where he quickly became a notable presence. Multiple anonymous sources paint a picture of Majors as volatile, controlling, intense, physically intimidating, and sometimes aggressive, a characterization that has followed him onto Hollywood sets, with some production staff describing him as physically and verbally intimidating. At the center of the allegations are claims from multiple third parties that Majors was emotionally and physically abusive with one romantic partner, to the point of allegedly strangling her. Another woman allegedly described her relationship with him as “emotional torture.” Both women declined to be interviewed.

Through his lawyer, Majors denied all accusations, pointing out that the Rolling Stone report was effectively hearsay. Rolling Stone further claimed that half of the character witnesses Majors’s legal team provided to them “never gave Majors’ team permission to release such statements.” Yet with allegations piling up and details of Majors’s incidents coming to the surface, professional fallout came swiftly. Deadline reported on April 17 that Majors’s manager and PR firm had both dropped him from their client rosters; a day later, Deadline followed up with news that several upcoming film projects as well as a Major League Baseball ad campaign and an Army campaign had all dropped Majors. The films included the thriller The Man in My Basement, which Majors was to have produced and starred in alongside Willem Dafoe. An Otis Redding biopic, Otis and Zelma, was also considering casting Majors as the lead but has moved on from him since the scandal broke. Per Deadline, this year’s Met Gala also disinvited him.

Per Variety, Majors also resigned from his role with the Sidney Poitier Initiative, a career development program for Black creatives that he created in 2022 as part of the Gotham Film and Media Institute. Majors also served on the board of the Gotham Institute; he has resigned from that role as well.

The public’s reactions to the allegations were mixed, but the evidence seems clear

The timing of the allegations couldn’t have been worse for Majors, who starred in the lackluster Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania as well as the Loki series on Disney+ and was slated to be the next major Marvel villain. Now, much as with The Flash’s Ezra Miller, similarly accused of violence and controlling behavior, his career could be in jeopardy due to his conviction at the precise moment he was poised to reach new heights of fame.

Still, the many questions and unknowns surrounding Majors’s arrest initially led to mixed reactions from the public. Was it possible that the police had made false assumptions based on Majors’s race and the surface-level optics of a complex situation? Could a guy who told NPR earlier in the year that masculinity includes “kindness,” “vulnerability,” and “gentleness” really be violent? (In the same interview, he also stated, “I wouldn’t wanna walk up on me in the street.”)

On the other hand, far too often in situations of intimate partner violence, the justice system disempowers victims, forcing the abused into impossible positions that ultimately enable their abusers — even when the alleged abuser isn’t a rich, famous, powerful celebrity. As many people have observed, by having his lawyer blame Jabbari for the incident and claim that Majors was “provably the victim,” he seemed to be employing a classic tactic of domestic abuse: DARVO, or “deny, attack, and reverse victim/offender.”

This is a tactic that has played a role in several recent high-profile cases, including the murder of Gabby Petito, in which her partner successfully framed her to police as the instigator of her own domestic abuse — even though a 911 caller reported that he had been seen physically assaulting her. It also played a prominent role in debates surrounding the Amber Heard–Johnny Depp defamation lawsuit, with supporters of either side accusing the other of utilizing DARVO. (Majors also weaponized metaphorical imagery during the court process. He was spotted leaving the courthouse after his arrest in March in a cap emblazoned with the word “Freedom,” and during Jabbari’s trial testimony he brought a gilded Bible to court.)

Many people compared Jabbari to Amber Heard — implying, depending on their view, either that she’s lying or that she’s being unfairly publicly trashed for reporting her assault. In either case, the comparison indicated a level of strong support for Majors; indeed, even after the video footage of the incident was released, many people on social media remained defensive of Majors.

Majors’s supporters have been quick to call out double standards in how famous white men are treated when they’re accused of domestic violence versus famous Black men. Majors, by virtue of being a buff, physically powerful Black man, may have different standards applied to his career rehabilitation, if indeed he’s eventually granted a second chance at a career. Additionally, Black men often face complicated obstacles to mental health care and wellness. That doesn’t change if someone becomes a Hollywood celebrity; in fact, those stressors might even intensify.

Absolutely none of that excuses Majors’s assault of Jabbari. But these factors further complicate knowing how to respond to domestic assault allegations — especially early on, when there are contradictory accounts and arguably everyone involved has a level of vulnerability. However, with the release of so much evidence supporting Majors’s conviction, and the voices of so many people with corroborating stories of his pattern of troubling behavior, it’s time to move on from the debate about whether Majors is guilty. Instead, the questions become about recovery — and what’s next.

Update, December 18, 6:30 pm ET: This story was originally published on March 28 and has been updated multiple times, most recently to include the guilty verdict in Majors’s trial and Marvel ending its relationship with the actor.

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