SALT LAKE CITY – 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 he was 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 says Hirsch is receiving counselling after going to rehab.
The actor is charged with felony assault — which is punishable by up to five years in prison and a $5,000 fine. He is also facing a misdemeanour count of intoxication.
A clean shaven Hirsch, who turned 30 on Friday, 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 Park City 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 court date set for April 13.
The woman he’s 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 not successful. Insurge Pictures distributed the Ben Stiller-produced Web comedy “Burning Love,” which was also on E! cable network.
Hirsch lawyer Robert Offer has said the actor had been drinking alcohol and doesn’t remember the events. 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 starring role in “Into the Wild.” 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,” a movie in which he appears alongside Ethan Hawke and Asa Butterfield.
Court documents say the altercation occurred at Tao Nightclub in Park City, when Hirsch, looking drunk, approached Bernfeld and asked why she looked “so tough.”
He also said 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 coming back and grabbing the woman from behind, the documents say.
She was put in a chokehold and pulled across the table before Hirsch landed on top of her on the floor, authorities said.
Bernfeld told authorities she saw things going dark and might have blacked out momentarily.
Hirsch, of Encino, California, told police he didn’t know Bernfeld but was having an argument with her.