Jonathan Majors assault trial starts with competing versions of a back seat confrontation

The actor Jonathan Majors listened silently, head cocked and eyes down, as Manhattan prosecutor and defense attorneys offered competing versions of a violent confrontation in the back seat of a car that led to assault charges against the film star and put his rapid Hollywood ascent on pause.

The opening statements in the trial against Majors focused on whether the actor assaulted his former girlfriend, Grace Jabbari, after she read a text message sent to his phone by another woman while the couple were traveling through Manhattan on an evening in late March.

Prosecutors say Majors grabbed the woman’s hand so hard he fractured her middle finger, then twisted her arm behind her back and struck her on the side of the head. An attorney for Majors argued that her client was the true victim, claiming he was left bloodied by the attack, while she spent the rest of the night clubbing.

Priya Chaudhry, an attorney for the actor, painted Jabbari as a wilted lover who sought to derail her partner’s career as revenge. She invoked Majors’ race — he is Black, Jabbari is white — as a potential reason that he was arrested the following day.

“His lifetime of hard work was coming to fruition and his career seemed unstoppable until he ended his relationship with Ms. Jabbari,” Chaudhry said, referring to Major’s breakout roles in “Creed III” and his emergence as a key supervillain in the Marvel multiverse.

Since the allegations in March, the 34-year-old actor has seen some of his work pulled or postponed, including the highly-anticipated release of the Sundance award-winning film “Magazine Dreams.”

Assistant district attorney Michael Perez told jurors the alleged assault was the culmination of a “cruel and manipulative pattern of psychological and physical abuse” that Majors directed at his partner of two years.

The trial, he said, would show that Majors “demanded total compliance” from his girlfriend, at one point telling her that she needed to maintain the same standards as Michelle Obama or Coretta Scott King.

In addition to the struggle inside the vehicle, both prosecution and defense offered differing narratives about the aftermath of the alleged assault.

Once the driver pulled over, Majors fled the scene with his phone as Jabbari chased him “on foot, through traffic, like in a movie,” according to Chaudhry. Unable to find Majors, she met three strangers and followed them to a Manhattan night club, where she spent the next few hours drinking and dancing, the defense attorney said.

Assistant district attorney Perez said Majors picked Jabbari up and threw her inside the car on multiple occasions after the driver pulled over. He said she accepted the invitation of bystanders in hopes of “temporarily blocking out” the abuse committed by Majors. She returned home after a few hours, took two sleeping pills and fell asleep on the floor of her bathroom, he said.

Jabbari awoke the next morning to Majors standing over her with police officers, initially reluctant to report the abuse “because of how he’s manipulated her in the past and trained her to stay silent,” Perez said.

She was hospitalized with minor injuries. Six months later, she was arrested by police after Majors brought a counterclaim against her for assaulting him in the vehicle. Those charges were dismissed by the Manhattan DA the following day.

Perez referenced the arrest on Monday, telling jurors that Majors’ “attempts to control and intimidate Ms. Jabbari extended well after he assaulted her.”

Jabbari is expected to testify against her former partner in the coming days. Majors could be sentenced to up to a year in jail if convicted.