If the revelation of text messages purportedly between Jonathan Majors and his girlfriend is any indication of the kind of evidence the movie star’s lawyer claims will exonerate him from assault charges, the uphill legal implications he’s facing may have just gotten significantly steeper.
Attorney Priya Chaudhry exuded confidence in her initial statements surrounding the police investigation into Majors’ alleged assault of his girlfriend in New York City. But a quick look back at some of the other high-profile cases she has handled suggests the outcome for the actor may not be as favorable as she predicted it would be.
Expectations were high after Chaudhry claimed in the immediate aftermath of Majors’ arrest that she had secured video footage as well as two separate “written statements” from the woman “recanting” her claims the actor strangled, assaulted and harassed her during a taxi ride from Brooklyn to Manhattan last weekend. But on Thursday, Chaudhry produced neither videos nor official statements.
Instead, Chaudhry made public a screenshot of a brief text message exchange purportedly between Majors and the woman that left even more questions than answers. It wasn’t exactly the flex she may have intended, as shown by reactions across social media. While there is no proof that Majors committed an assault, critics online suggested the texts’ self-blaming language was similar to the kinds of things “battered women” say to excuse abuse.
Below is an example of the type of discourse that flooded social media timelines after the texts were made public.
The release of the texts also cast aspersions on Chaudhry since they seemed to have the opposite effect she likely intended.
The texts — all apparently sent and received on Saturday before and after Majors was arrested — are absent of context and show one message supposedly from the actor asking if keys were left before he said “goodbye.”
Hours later, a different text message responds in part by saying there was an apologetic assurance that no criminal charges would result from the incident in question.
“I’m so sorry you’re in this position,” one text said before another added later: “I told them it was my fault for trying to grab your phone.”
A subsequent text purportedly to Majors says, “I love you.”
Another text allegedly from the woman said she told the police “this was not an attack” and denied any “strangulation” occurred.
Notably, the text added, “I also said tell the judge to know that the origin of the call was to do with me collapsing and passing out and your worry as my partner.”
Chaudhry’s past high-profile cases
Chaudhry is described on her website as an award-winning attorney who is “[n]ationally recognized as a premier criminal trial lawyer.” It also says she has worked “over 40 jury trials in over 20 years of practice in some of the nation’s most complicated and high-profile criminal cases.”
What Chaudhry’s website does not say is that some of those recent aforementioned “high-profile criminal cases” resulted in unfavorable verdicts for her clients.
Notably, Chaudhry represented Paul Haggis when a jury late last year found the Academy Award-winning filmmaker to be liable for three counts of raping and sexually abusing a woman in New York City in 2013. That case was not criminal and was tried in civil court that determined Haggis must pay the woman at least $7.5 million. Four days later, Haggis was ordered to pay her an additional $2.5 million in damages.
Chaudhry said she was “disappointed and shocked” at the verdict that she attributed in part to the “#MeToo movement.”
“No one could have had a fair trial in that courtroom under those circumstances,” Chaudhry said when the verdict was handed down on Nov. 10, 2022. “This is a shameful exploitation of the #MeToo movement where political sentiment trumps facts.”
One of Chaudhry’s lines of questioning in the trial centered on Haggis blaming the Church of Scientology for the multiple sexual misconduct allegations made against him.
“My bet is that, within two years, you’re going to read something about me in a scandal that looks like it has nothing to do with the church,” Chaudhry argued during the trial.
Haggis has said he would appeal the verdict.
Chaudhry also defended the currently incarcerated reality TV star Jen Shah in a high-profile criminal case centered on allegations of conspiracy to commit wire fraud in connection with telemarketing and conspiracy to commit money laundering.
In that case, also from last year, Shah — who starred on the show, Real Housewives of Salt Lake City — pleaded guilty, reversing her initial not-guilty plea.
“Ms. Shah is a good woman who crossed a line. She accepts full responsibility for her actions and deeply apologizes to all who have been harmed,” Chaudhry told Us Weekly in a statement last summer. “Ms. Shah is also sorry for disappointing her husband, children, family, friends, and supporters. Jen pled guilty because she wants to pay her debt to society and put this ordeal behind her and her family.”
Shah is serving a six-and-a-half-year prison sentence in Texas.
“Jen Shah’s resolve to make her victims whole and to turn her life around is unyielding,” Chaudhry said when Shah began her sentence. “She is committed to serving her sentence with courage and purpose, fueled by her desire to make amends for the hurt she has caused and to help others in her new community.”
While Nikhil Wahi isn’t exactly a household name, his federal cryptocurrency trial in which Chaudhry represented him was largely seen as groundbreaking. Wahi pleaded guilty to committing wire fraud in a case that the Department of Justice said centered on “a scheme to commit insider trading in cryptocurrency assets by using confidential information from his brother … about which crypto assets were scheduled to be listed” on a crypto trading and investment platform.
Chaudhry tried in vain to get Wahi sentenced to time served and said his only motivation in the “scheme” was to pay his parents back for putting him through college and to help them retire. Wahi is “an incredibly decent young man who did the wrong thing for a misguided reason,” Chaudhry told a court that in January sentenced the defendant to 10 months in prison, according to Bloomberg Law.
It is not clear whether Chaudhry presented the video evidence and written statements to the Manhattan district attorney’s office as she said on Sunday that she intended to do. But since she released the screenshot of text messages for public consumption, she may very well plan on doing the same with the alleged video footage.
Meanwhile, the court of public opinion seems to be looking at Chaudhry’s latest high-profile client through slanted eyes. That probably doesn’t bode well if Majors’ case advances to trial, a setting where Chaudhry hasn’t had the greatest track record in recent history.
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