(NEW YORK) — Marvel actor Jonathan Majors’ trial on domestic violence charges began Wednesday in New York.
Majors, 34, faces misdemeanor assault and harassment charges stemming from an incident in March with his then-girlfriend, Grace Jabbari.
Majors has pleaded not guilty. If convicted, he could serve up to a year in prison.
The actor entered criminal court early Wednesday in a long black coat and sunglasses accompanied by his girlfriend, actress Meagan Good, and his defense attorney, Priya Chaudhry.
He appeared to be carrying a Bible in his left hand.
Before jury selection began, Majors’ attorneys argued the actor’s “celebrity status” means the courtroom should be closed while the parties discuss an “evidentiary matter.” His attorneys deemed the undisclosed matter so sensitive that anything short of closing the courtroom and keeping it under seal would severely undermine Majors’ ability to receive a fair trial.
Manhattan Criminal Court Judge Michael Gaffey agreed to the request of Majors’ attorney, ordering the courtroom closed to the public when he hears arguments about the evidentiary matter Wednesday afternoon. Gaffey said less intrusive measures “would not adequately protect the defendant’s right to a fair trial” if the press reported on “prejudicial and inflammatory” material that may not even be deemed admissible at trial.
Sealing the hearing and the documents related to the matter is the “only way to prevent tainting the jury pool,” Gaffey said.
An attorney for media organizations had argued the defense has been making public statements “like crazy,” so there was no issue about excessive publicity.
The judge also agreed to a request from Chaudhry to prevent prosecutors from referring to Jabbari as the “victim,” arguing “it is highly prejudicial for the jury to hear her as ‘victim."” The judge will allow prosecutors to say Jabbari was the victim of third-degree assault and aggravated harassment, as charged.
Other pretrial motions dispensed prior to jury selection may include whether prosecutors will be allowed to call so-called “prior bad act witnesses,” other women whose prior accusations against Majors are not part of the misdemeanor assault charges.
Jury selection will follow the discussion of the evidentiary matter. Opening statements are expected to begin on Thursday.
Majors was arrested after officers responded to a 911 call in Manhattan for an alleged domestic dispute. He is accused of twisting Jabbari’s arm behind her back, striking her in the head and pushing her into a vehicle, a criminal complaint alleges. She was treated at a hospital for minor neck and head injuries, including a cut to her ear, police said.
The Marvel star has denied the assault and filed a cross-complaint against Jabbari, alleging he was the one assaulted.
“For an excruciating four months, Jonathan Majors, the real victim in this shameful ordeal, has had his life, career, and reputation torn apart,” Chaudhry said in a statement in August. “Yet he remains unwavering in his determination to be absolved from this harrowing ordeal.”
His attorney had previously sought to delay the trial, saying prosecutors weren’t “timely” in turning over evidence.
Jabbari was arrested in October in New York on multiple charges, though the Manhattan district attorney’s office subsequently said it decided not to prosecute her because the case “lacks prosecutorial merit.”
“The matter is now closed and sealed,” the office said in a statement in October.
The judge has yet to rule on a request from the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office to prohibit the defense from mentioning Jabbari’s arrest.
Chaudhry said Majors is heard on police body camera footage telling officers “She slapped me” and “She ripped my coat” before they arrested him. The defense has claimed that authorities failed to properly evaluate his account before moving forward with misdemeanor charges.
Majors is known for his roles in the “Ant-Man” films, as well as starring in the Disney+ TV show, “Loki.”
In the role of Kang the Conqueror, Majors is scheduled to appear in “Avengers: The Kang Dynasty” and “Avengers: Secret Wars.”
Majors also was nominated for an Emmy for his role in the HBO series “Lovecraft Country” and starred in the films “Creed III,” “Da 5 Bloods” and “The Harder They Fall.”
Disney is the parent company of Marvel and ABC News.
Copyright © 2023, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.