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Actor to spend time in jail after pleading guilty to assaulting female executive

Court: Emile Hirsch
Court: Emile Hirsch

Actor Emile Hirsch has pleaded guilty to misdemeanour assault after being accused of putting a female studio executive in a chokehold at a Utah nightclub during the Sundance Film Festival.

The Into the Wild star entered his plea on Monday under a deal with prosecutors. The 30-year-old from California, will spend 15 days in jail, pay a 4,750 dollars fine (£3,000) and do 50 hours of community service. If he completes the sentence, the charge will be dismissed.

Daniele Bernfeld, an executive for the Paramount Pictures subsidiary Insurge Pictures, told police that in January Hirsch put her in a chokehold from behind at Tao Nightclub in Park City, dragged her across a table and body slammed her to the floor.

Hirsch was slurring his words and struggled to balance and said he had three or four drinks. He told police he couldn't remember exactly what happened but acknowledged "mouthing off" a bit with Ms Bernfeld and then defending himself when she came at him. He reiterated on Monday that he couldn't remember what happened that night.

Summit County attorney Robert Hilder said Hirsch has been sober since the incident, has taken responsibility and expressed remorse on multiple occasions. Prosecutors know Hirsch was drinking that night and was taking medication that may have mixed with the alcohol, Mr Hilder said, acknowledging that it is troubling Hirsch can't explain why he did what he did.

Ms Bernfeld described the incident as being "insanely painful and absolutely terrifying," according to public records. She said in a statement sent by her lawyer that she wasn't happy with the plea deal, saying the punishment should be tougher.

She said the violent and unprovoked attack had caused long-lasting effects beyond the physical injuries.

"It took two people to pull him off me, and if not for their intervention, the attack would have continued," she said. "I thought I was going to die."

She said authorities treated her with respect and dignity, but she's disappointed that prosecutors agreed a deal that meets the bare minimum.

"If a violent attack in front of a roomful of witnesses can be labeled a misdemeanor and dismissed, what of women who are assaulted while alone in hallways or bathrooms, or behind the closed doors of their own homes?" she said in a statement .

Lawyers for Hirsch have said that he entered rehab within days of 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 The Girl Next Door, 'Milk, and Universal's Navy SEAL drama Lone Survivor, Peter Berg's account of a disastrous 2005 military operation in Afghanistan.