UPDATED with more info from court hearing: Almost six months after he allegedly attacked and choked the female VP of Paramount Digital during a Sundance Film Festival party, Emile Hirsch was back in court this morning in Park City to talk a potential plea to ward off years behind bars. Off a stint in rehab that came out of the early-morning incident on January 25, a suit-wearing Hirsch faced Judge Paige Peterson in the latest hearing on charges of aggravated assault and intoxication.
With his Salt Lake City attorney Neil Kaplan and a couple of other lawyers present at Monday’s short status conference, Hirsch’s reps requested a preliminary hearing in the matter. Following procedure, the judge set an August 17 date for what is essentially a mini-trial. Unless a resolution is reached beforehand, Hirsch is expected to be in attendance. The actor’s attorney told the court Monday that they have been talking to the state about a possible plea deal. However, those discussions, I’ve learned, have not reached a final stage and could easily fall apart before the August hearing.
The actor is looking at as many as five years in jail and a $5,000 fine on the third-degree felony charge and a $750 fine and 90 days behind bars on the misdemeanor. Under Utah law, a defendant can seek the preliminary hearing and the state has to present evidence that an offence has taken place and that the plaintiff caused it. Subpoenas are issued and witnesses are called for the hearing, and both sides can question them. Deputy County Attorney Ryan Stack is prosecuting the case for the Summit County Attorney’s Office. The preliminary hearing will likely last a couple of hours, sources say.
Attending Sundance this year for the debut of the pic Ten Thousand Saints, an apparently drunken Hirsch went on a 3:15 AM rant at TAO nightclub against executive Dani Bernfeld. According to charging documents, Hirsch went away, came back, and then came up behind Bernfeld and “put her in a chokehold.” The actor then threw the exec over a table, got on top of her with his hands around her neck and caused Bernfeld to have “blacked out” before witnesses pulled him off. Park City cops called to the scene later said that Hirsch’s “eyes were red and glossy” and he appeared to be under the influence of alcohol. At the time, the actor said he was in a “verbal confrontation” with the Paramount VP, whom he also said he barely knew. Claiming to only have had a few drinks that night, Hirsch later said he had no memory of what happened.
The actor was formally charged on February 12 and appeared in court March 16. Soon afterward, Hirsch’s lawyers had the UTA-repped actor excused from appearing at any court hearing, which is required under Utah law. That request expired as of today.