New details on alleged actor Emile Hirsch assault

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Thursday, July 2, 2015
Actor Emile Hirsch
Actor Emile Hirsch poses at the premiere of "Ten Thousand Saints" during the 2015 Sundance Film Festival on Friday, Jan. 23, 2015, in Park City, Utah.
Photo by Danny Moloshok/Invision/AP

SALT LAKE CITY, UT -- A studio executive who authorities say was assaulted by actor Emile Hirsch during the Sundance Film Festival earlier this year described the incident as being "insanely painful and absolutely terrifying," according to public records obtained by The Associated Press.

Daniele Bernfeld, an executive for the Paramount Pictures subsidiary Insurge Pictures, told police that Hirsch put her in a chokehold from behind, dragged her across a table and body slammed her to the floor, investigative documents obtained Thursday through a public records request showed.

Hirsch said he didn't remember exactly what happened, saying only that she came at him and he was defending himself.

Bernfeld was initially apprehensive about pursuing charges the night of the Jan. 25 incident Tao Nightclub in Park City due to the "sensitive nature" of her work and Hirsch's high profile, reports show. She said the next day that she decided to pursue charges because word of the incident, and her name, had already leaked out to the public and media.

"I am fundamentally not OK with what happened," Bernfeld said the night of the incident, red marks visible on her neck. "It was insanely painful and absolutely terrifying."

Hirsch was questioned and handcuffed the night of the incident, but released and not formally charged until nearly three weeks later. He was charged with aggravated assault and intoxication. The felony assault is punishable by up to five years in prison and a $5,000 fine.

That night, slurring his words and struggling to balance, Hirsch said he had three or four drinks. He acknowledged "mouthing off" a bit with Bernfeld, but said he couldn't remember exactly what happened.

"She started kind of causing a ruckus and I sort of started getting intervening and this happened," said Hirsch. "I don't think it was much more than that to be honest.... I think she had a go at me and I probably defended myself."

The 30-year-old from Encino, California has made two court appearances in Park City, but has not entered a plea or made any comments outside court. Hirsch is due back in court in Park City on Aug. 17 at a hearing in which prosecutors will lay out the evidence or, possibly, announce a plea deal.

Hirsch's attorney, Neil Kaplan, was not immediately available for comment. He has previously said Hirsch entered rehab within days of the incident.

Paramount spokeswoman Katie Martin Kelley was not immediately available for comment either. She has declined to comment previously about the incident.

Hirsch was at Sundance for the premiere of the drama "Ten Thousand Saints." He is best-known for his starring role in "Into the Wild" and has also appeared in Universal's Navy SEAL drama "Lone Survivor," Peter Berg's account of a disastrous 2005 military operation in Afghanistan.

In the lead up to the attack at the club, Bernfeld said Hirsch was super aggressive and in her face. He told her she was a rich kid who "has never done anything" and was just at Sundance to party. She said Hirsch told her, "Your parents are rich and you don't know what it's like."

Bernfeld said she pushed him away, and told him she was a studio executive in town for work and that her mother was a public school principal. Several minutes passed before he came back and blindsided her, she said.

"He basically grabbed me at the curve of the elbow, choked me up, threw me across the table, and I felt the front of my throat hit the back of my throat," Bernfeld said in an interview recorded by a police officer's body camera.

A waitress told police Hirsch was really drunk and was grabbing Bernfeld's hair and touching her prior to the attack. A friend of Bernfeld who witnessed it told police he and another person pulled Hirsch off of Bernfeld while he was choking her.

"I have seen quite a few fights in my life, but this was pretty violent," said the witness, whose name is redacted from the report but is identified as a film director.

Bernfeld said she hadn't met Hirsch prior to that night. Hirsch couldn't remember her name after the incident but said he thinks they might have known each other.

Before being released the night of the incident, Hirsch said he was surprised by what had happened and told police he tries to stay out of trouble. He said he has a young son and a woman he lives with that he cares about.

"I've always respected the law and been a law-abiding citizen," Hirsch said. "To have it bite me is surprising but at the same time, you can never be surprised when dealing with the law."

After the officer told Hirsch he had made some poor decisions, Hirsch apologized but asked again what he had done. He seemed unaware of the severity of the situation, telling the officer, "I feel like I could patch it up with her."