Mignogna Deposition: The Funimation Investigation
posted on by Lynzee Loveridge
UPDATE: 2019-07-30: A new affidavit included with Monica Rial and Ronald Toye's Supplement to Motion to Dismiss contains additional information about the alleged incident involving a pair of twin sisters. That section of the article is now updated to reflect this new information. Click here for the page jump.
A transcript of voice actor Vic Mignogna's deposition on June 26 from his ongoing lawsuit against Funimation, voice actresses Jamie Marchi and Monica Rial, and Rial's fiancee Ronald Toye and exhibits included in Rial and Toye's Motion to Dismiss filed on July 19 and Funimation's Motion to Dismiss on July 1 offer more insight into Funimation and Sony's own investigation into Mignogna's conduct.
Funimation publicly announced on February 11 that the company would no longer "be engaging Mignogna in future productions." However, Funimation's Karen Mika had informed Mignogna of this decision in a phone call on January 29, formally ending the voice actor and the company's business relationship.
The decision was the result of an investigation by Sony Picture's executive director of employee relations Tammi Denbow that began on January 22. In Denbow's affidavit she states she had contacted Mignogna regarding "issues involving Monica Rial, the two female fans, and the former Funimation employee" on January 25. According to Rial's deposition, she told Denbow of two incidents while Mignogna only mentions one incident with Rial in his deposition. Two more parties also relayed incidents in which they were directly involved to Denbow along with two witnesses and another former Funimation employee. Due to original confidential nature of the investigation, Anime News Network will not be identifying the other two parties.
Rial and Mignogna's accounts of the incident discussed with Denbow differ. According to Rial, she told Denbow about an alleged forceful kiss that took place in Mignogna's hotel room in 2007 at Izumicon in Oklahoma City and a situation involving a jellybean at another convention. Rial's attorney Sean Lemoine described the alleged kiss from Rial's written discovery during Mignogna's deposition:
Plaintiff played videos promised, while Defendant stood to watch video. The Plaintiff soon grabbed the Defendant by the upper arms and began aggressively kissing Defendant. Defendant attempted to resist, but Plaintiff physically restrained Defendant, pushed Defendant back towards -- backward toward the bed. Plaintiff climbed on top of Defendant and held her down as he continued to aggressively kiss Defendant. Plaintiff continued in this fashion for several minutes, despite Defendant's fear and shock, until Mr. [Stan] Dahlin knocked on the Plaintiff's hotel door. Plaintiff left Defendant on the bed and hurriedly answered the door. Mr. Dahlin inquired whether the Defendant was okay, clearly noticing the stress. Defendant, however, was too shocked and afraid to admit what had occurred.
Mignogna denied in his deposition that this incident took place.
Denbow asked Mignogna about a situation at a convention where Rial signed a jellybean with her name in front of a crowd. Mignogna ate the jellybean and said Rial commented that he would "get ink poisoning". According to Mignogna, he joked that he could say that he "ate Monica Rial." Mignogna characterized the interaction as silly.
"You know, I mean, they're fans and they're all laughing and thought it was funny," Mignogna said. Mignogna stated that Denbow did not reference Rial's other allegations during their discussion. Denbow also asked Mignogna about two other incidents not involving Rial. Denbow advised Mignogna not to contact the individuals who made the allegations, however Mignogna stated he did reach out to Rial via e-mail on February 8 after her initial tweets about an incident. He said she did not respond to his e-mail.
The additional incidents involve kissing a Funimation employee at Funimation's offices in Texas and allegedly approaching a pair of twins in his hotel room at a convention.
The incident involving the Funimation employee occurred in 2015 or 2016, according to Mignogna. He stated that he asked the employee if he could kiss her and she responded by asking him to close the door. Mignogna said he did so and then kissed the employee. He characterized the interaction as consensual and a singular incident with no other sexual or romantic affairs between the two after the kiss.
Mignogna said that when Denbow contacted him about the incident, she described it as "forcibly kissing [her]."
The third incident involved twin sisters, female fans of Mignogna's that he encountered at panels at multiple conventions. According to Mignogna, Denbow asked him if he recalled forcibly kissing one of the girls in his hotel room. Mignogna denied that he kissed her. Lemoine asked Mignogna if he had asked the women to strip for him, which he also denied.
"I had seen these--these two ladies at multiple conventions, and I was under the very clear impression that they were interested or attracted to me. And they were very kind, attractive, friendly young ladies. And so after the fourth or fifth time that I saw them at an event [...] I asked them if they [...] wanted to come to my room. I invited them to my room. They came, voluntarily. I let them in. One of them sat on the bed, the other one sat in a chair in the room, and I sat in another chair in the room. We made some small talk, and then they asked me why I invited them to my room. And I said, 'Well, I was under the impression that there was a lot of mutual attraction going on here and I thought maybe you might be interested in -- in some -- you know, in some kind of a sexual interaction.' They told me they were not, I said 'okay,' and they left," Mignogna said.
The women came to Mignogna's room "several years ago" and were, by Mignogna's recollection, approximately 20 to 21 years old and he was 50 to 51 years old at the time. The sisters' affidavits state that they were 22 years old.
According to sworn affidavits included with Monica Rial and Ronald Toye's Supplement to Motion to Dismiss on July 30, the alleged incident occurred in 2015 at Anime Blues Con in Memphis. Prior to the event, the sisters Elizabeth and Theresa had encountered Mignogna at multiple conventions beginning in 2013 when they were both 19 years old. The women exchanged e-mails with Mignogna and were given his personal telephone number at Colossalcon 2014 in Sandusky, Ohio. Elizabeth noted that when they encountered one another at conventions, Mignogna would "always [give them] long hugs and kisses on the cheek."
The women claimed they received a text from Mignogna on the Saturday of the convention to meet him in his hotel room and they agreed, stating they believed other voice actors would be present in the room.
"I did not think Mignogna was trying to hit on us because he was as old as our father, and I knew he was engaged to Michele Specht. Therefore, my sister and I went to his hotel room," Elizabeth said.
After arriving, the sisters said they asked Mignogna where the other actors were and that Mignogna told them they were at a "public striptease". They said that Mignogna then asked them to strip for him.
The Supplement to Motion to Dismiss reads:
The [twins] were shocked, but Mignogna pressed forward, telling the young women that he intended to have sex with both of them that night. Despite their discomfort, he then asked to kiss them on the lips. The [sisters] rebuffed him, explaining that they did not expect this from a man thirty years their senior, and supposedly a Christian man engaged to be married to Michele Specht. The sisters' refusal, and mention of his age and engagement, threw Mignogna into a rage. By this time both women were fearful for their safety.
"He became visibly angry, and began ranting about age being just a number, and it's how you feel, not how you look, and how good he looked for his age," Elizabeth said.
The Supplement to Motion to Dismiss states that Mignogna allowed the women to leave the room but tried to "coax" them into a sexual interaction again first. They women were said to be crying when Mignogna allegedly "grabbed each woman by the face with both of his hands, and forcibly kissed each of them on the lips." The women said they did not consent to this and were "shocked, frightened, and embarrassed."
Elizabeth stated that she also saw Mignogna "grope, kiss, and touch fans on many occasions" in a manner that she believes is inappropriate.
Elizabeth stated that they encountered Mignogna again at A-kon in Texas while standing in an autograph line for another voice actor. Elizabeth said Mignogna eventually approached the sisters.
"...eventually Mignogna did walk over and—in a sarcastic, passive aggressive, and rude tone—told us how great it was to see us and how nice it was that we did not say hello to him. Again, he made us feel very uncomfortable," Elizabeth said.
Denbow stated in her deposition that "based on my interviews, I concluded that the allegations of inappropriate conduct made against Mr. Mignogna were credible. I reported the same to Sony Pictures Entertainment Human Resources to be communicated to Funimation." Denbow informed Rial of her conclusion on or about January 29.
Motion to Dismiss
Funimation, Marchi, and Monica Rial and Ronald Toye have filed separate anti-SLAPP motions to dismiss Mignogna's suits against them. Rial and Toye filed a motion dismiss the the case based on Texas Citizen's Participation Act (TCPA) on July 19. The act is the state of Texas's law to protect individuals from Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation (SLAPP) lawsuits. A "SLAPP suit" is a lawsuit designed to hinder individual(s) from speaking freely, but is otherwise without merit, under threat of the suit itself or its potential financial cost. According to TexasLawHelp.org: "The lawsuit can be filed by the plaintiff on different grounds (reasons) like libel or tortious interference, but the point of a SLAPP suit is to silence the defendant regardless of whether the lawsuit has merit."
If the court dismisses the case under the TCPA, Rial, Toye, Marchi, and Funimation could be awarded the cost of their attorney fees. Rial and Toye are also seeking financial sanctions against Mignogna. Lemoine writes that Mignogna is a public figure and the lawsuit is "an all-out assault on Ms. Rial's and Toye's right of free speech to comment on a matter of public concern, i.e. Plaintiff's conduct with children and women both in public and — more insidiously — behind closed doors."
Lemoine argues that Mignogna has failed to show clear and specific evidence necessary to establish all the elements of his claims of defamation, tortious interference with contracts, and tortious interference with prospective business relations, conspiracy against Rial and Toye. Lemoine also asserts that Mignogna is libel proof, arguing that rumors of Mignogna's alleged conduct have followed him for years and thus he cannot ascertain damages. Mignogna stated during his deposition that did not know how much in damages he is seeking in his lawsuit and could not put an amount on damages incurred due to actions by the defendants.
Mignogna filed the lawsuit against Funimation and the other defendants on April 18. In the lawsuit, Mignogna claims defamation, interference in existing contracts and prospective business relations, and civil conspiracy over the defendants' Twitter posts and Funimation's investigation against Mignogna for alleged sexual harassment.
Mignogna is seeking "monetary relief over $1,000,000.00" in part due to Funimation no longer contracting him for future productions, as well as conventions canceling his appearances. Mignogna and his lawyer are also seeking "judgment against the Defendants for actual, consequential and punitive damages according to the claims ... in amounts to be determined on final hearing, pre- and post-judgment interest at the highest rate permitted by law, and costs of court" in addition to "such other and further relief to which he may be justly or equitably entitled" and "general relief."
Mignogna is represented by Ty Beard of Beard Harris Bullock Hughes in Tyler, Texas.
Mignogna has been accused by a number of con attendees of kissing and embracing them without consent over the course of his career, with some allegations dating back to 2008. These allegations spread on social media earlier this year. Fellow voice actors have publicly issued anecdotes of their personal experiences with Mignogna or support for those speaking out via social media.
Mignogna issued an apology at the Bak-Anime event in early February, and posted a public statement later that month. On February 21, Mignogna posted another statement on Twitter that read, "I have now very reluctantly retained a law firm as my last and only recourse to attempt to salvage my reputation and my 20-year career in this industry."
Source: re:Search Texas
follow-up of Mignogna Deposition: Vic Mignogna Admits to Pulling Jamie Marchi's Hair, Denies it Was Sexual
this article has been modified since it was originally posted; see change history