New year, new day, new bad man alert! On December 21, 2023, Asta Jonasson filed a lawsuit in California against Vin Diesel alleging, in part, sexual battery and wrongful termination.
In 2010, Ms. Jonasson was hired to work as an assistant to Diesel, who was in Atlanta filming Fast Five. Among her tasks was accompanying Diesel to events and staying close to him in case he was photographed with other women while apart from his then longtime girlfriend, for, I guess, plausible deniability, like a dude can’t be cheating if his employee is standing next to him. (Have you met people? That’s not how any of this works.) I do not point this out to belittle Ms. Jonasson or her professional ambitions—she is described as a “recent film-school-program graduate” circa 2010—but to illustrate how unseriously her job was treated by Diesel from the jump.
The specific incident highlighted in the lawsuit took place that September, when Ms. Jonasson alleges Diesel assaulted her after he, er, entertained some other women in his hotel room (impossible! His employee was standing right there!). He (allegedly) pushed her up against a wall, groped her, pushed her dress up, placed her hand on his junk, and then masturbated in front of her, all of this over her verbal refusals and attempts to physically get away from him. (Why don’t women say no? WE DO! Often! Why don’t men listen when women say no?) She says she was then fired by Diesel’s sister, Samantha Vincent, who is also the president of their One Race production company. Ms. Jonasson believes she was fired “because she was no longer useful—Vin Diesel had used her to fulfill his sexual desires and she had resisted his sexual assaults”, per the suit.
In a statement made to the Los Angeles Times via his lawyer, Bryan Freedman, Diesel “categorically denies this claim in its entirety. This is the first he has ever heard about this more than 13-year-old claim made by a purportedly nine-day employee.”
“Purportedly a nine-day employee”, I mean, there should be records of how long Ms. Jonasson was employed, tax records if nothing else, so we should very quickly be able to verify how long she worked for Diesel, if nothing else. Also, “this is the first he has ever heard about this more than 13-year-old claim”, let’s talk about this specific line.
Freedman is clearly trying to play it off like, Oh NOW she’s saying these things? SUSPICIOUS! But the Speak Out Act went into effect in the US on December 7, 2022. The Speak Out Act is a federal law which prevents NDAs from being enforced in cases of sexual assault and harassment. Basically, in the United States, this law guarantees that even if you sign an NDA, it cannot be enforced if you’re levying charges of sexual assault/harassment at your employer. Guess what? Asta Jonasson had signed an NDA for the period she worked for Diesel. Further, California state law AB2777, which also went into effect in late 2022, extends the statute of limitations for civil suits in California involving sexual assault/harassment/abuse for incidents occurring on or after January 1, 2009, that otherwise would have been barred by the previous statue of limitations.
She literally COULD NOT TALK ABOUT WHAT HAPPENED until a year ago when TWO new laws took effect, and Bryan Freedman knows that. But he’s counting on the general public not knowing that, so that his smarmy f-cking denial casts aspersion on Ms. Jonasson, making her seem like a money grubber or a fraudster of some sort. But really, besides the time it took for her to come into her moment of telling her own story, it ALSO took multiple legislative acts of will to make it possible for Ms. Jonasson to file this suit. These things do not happen in a vacuum. It takes bravery on the part of the survivor to come forward, and sometimes, it does take considerable political effort to make it possible for survivors to file legally because of statutes of limitation.
I truly do not think we have even begun to reckon with the chilling effect NDAs and statutes of limitations have had in cases of workplace harassment, and we can expect to see a LOT more suits like this (see also: Paula Abdul suing Nigel Lythgoe for sexual assault). In the meantime, Bryan Freedman says there is “clear evidence which completely refutes these outlandish allegations”. I look forward to seeing it. The last time a lawyer claimed to have evidence proving their bad man client didn’t do all the terrible things That Woman is saying, Jonathan Majors was convicted of assault and harassment.