A former assistant to Vin Diesel, one of Hollywood’s most bankable action stars, filed a sexual battery lawsuit against the actor on Thursday, saying that he groped her and pinned her against the wall of an Atlanta hotel room during the filming of the fifth “Fast & Furious” movie in 2010.
In the lawsuit, the former assistant, Asta Jonasson, said the encounter took place less than two weeks after she was hired to work for Mr. Diesel. The actor grabbed her, groped her breasts and forcibly kissed her while she repeatedly said no, according to the lawsuit. Mr. Diesel pulled her dress up and moved to pull down her underwear, the lawsuit said, before Ms. Jonasson screamed and ran toward the bathroom.
The complaint said Mr. Diesel then “pinned her against the wall with his body, and grabbed Ms. Jonasson’s hand and placed it on his erect penis.” When she again refused to engage, the lawsuit says, Mr. Diesel began masturbating while keeping her pinned to the wall.
A lawyer for Mr. Diesel, Bryan J. Freedman, said in a statement that Mr. Diesel “categorically denies this claim in its entirety.”
“This is the first he has ever heard about this more than 13-year-old claim made by a purportedly nine-day employee,” Mr. Freedman said. “There is clear evidence which completely refutes these outlandish allegations.”
Mr. Diesel, 56, rose to fame after Steven Spielberg cast him as a soldier in “Saving Private Ryan”; he established himself as a leading man primed for brawny roles with his performances as a killer in the “Chronicles of Riddick” series and a member of the Navy SEALs in the comedy “The Pacifier.” In 2010, he was filming another starring role in the “Fast & Furious” franchise, which he revisited this past year in “Fast X.”
Hours after the encounter in the hotel room, according to the lawsuit, Ms. Jonasson received a call from an executive at the production company — Mr. Diesel’s sister, Samantha Vincent — and was told that it no longer needed “any extra help.” Ms. Vincent and the production company, both of which could not immediately be reached for comment, are also named as defendants.
Ms. Jonasson said in the lawsuit that all employees of the production company had been required to sign a nondisclosure agreement preventing them from sharing anything related to Mr. Diesel.
“For years, Ms. Jonasson remained silent,” the lawsuit said, “afraid to speak out against one of the world’s highest-grossing actors, afraid she would be ostracized from the industry which had a pattern of protecting powerful men and silencing survivors of sexual harassment and assault, and concerned that as a green card holder that speaking out could jeopardize her potential future citizenship.”
Ms. Jonasson sued under a California law passed in the wake of the #MeToo movement that opened a window for people accusing someone of sexual assault to sue even if the statute of limitations had run out. Her lawsuit, filed in Los Angeles Superior Court, also alleges wrongful termination and retaliation.