Former Tekkoshocon Staff Allege Mignogna Harassed Macross Voice Actress Mari Iijima
posted on by ANN Staff
Lynn Hunt, who uses the Twitter name @ljmontello, has worked in many positions at anime conventions across the United States since 2000. She told ANN that at the Ohayacon event in Columbus, Ohio in 2003, she saw many instances of Mignogna inappropriately touching guests, fans, and other convention patrons. Hunt believes many of the attendees who Mignogna allegedly touched inappropriately looked young.
At the Anime Central (ACEN) convention in Rosemont, Illinois in 2004, Hunt says she saw Mignogna give his personal phone number to many young female fans, and touch and kiss other young female fans inappropriately. Again, she believes many of the other parties he allegedly touched and kissed looked young.
Most of Hunt's allegations, however, relate to the Tekkoshocon event (now known as Tekko) in Pittsburgh. Hunt said that at this event in 2007, Mignogna allegedly harassed convention guest Mari Iijima, the Japanese voice of Lynn Minmay in The Super Dimension Fortress Macross anime.
Responding on Twitter to Hunt's comments about Mignogna and Iijima, voice actor Brett Weaver claimed to have been on a panel at Tekkoshocon 2007 with both actors. He said, “I had never met Mari but just before the panel, she told me that she felt very uncomfortable being around him. I had her sit to my right, and when Vic arrived I made it clear he was going to sit to my left. He laughed and moved toward her. I looked him square in the eye and [said], 'Nope. Sit there.' We went through the panel and I don't think Vic and I ever spoke again.”
Pt2) He laughed and moved toward her. I looked him square in the eye and, "Nope. Sit there."— The Sweltering King of Texas (@backlogue) June 27, 2019
We went through the panel and I don't think Vic and I ever spoke again.
I am glad I was there for her.
ANN contacted Weaver, who confirmed he wrote the Twitter comments, and clarified, “Mari asked me to make sure that Vic wouldn't sit next to her. That's when I suggested she sit to my right and made sure that he would sit on my left. I've been raised to where if someone needs your help, you give it. I am saddened that this hasn't been the case in this industry.”
Further allegations about Mignogna's conduct at the Tekkoshocon 2007 event were made by a colleague of Hunt. ANN contacted this colleague, who preferred not to be named in this story, but confirmed they made the allegations. These allegations were included in a signed affidavit attached to voice actress Monica Rial and her fiancée Ronald Toye's Motion to Dismiss Mignogna's lawsuit against them in July. Hunt also provided a signed affidavit.
Hunt's colleague said that Mignogna went missing multiple times at the convention, and staff had trouble locating him. According to Hunt's colleague, there was one occasion when Mignogna couldn't be found shortly before he was due to appear at a Q&A panel. Hunt's colleague said they heard that parents were asking a security officer for help finding their daughters, who were each approximately 14 years of age. They claimed that there was a message that came in that said that the three girls had been found with Mignogna in his hotel room, with no one else present in the room.
Hunt's colleague then said they learned Mignogna had promised the girls access to props related to Fullmetal Alchemist, as well as a special photo shoot. Hunt's colleague said they personally saw Mignogna, who allegedly appeared extremely angry with a red face as though he had been screaming or crying. Allegedly, Mignogna repeatedly stated to Hunt's colleague that he hadn't done anything wrong and that he hadn't done anything to the girls, though the staff member had not accused him of misconduct.
Hunt's colleague said they believe that the parents of the girls decided not to bring the matter to the police. The colleague said they personally thought Mignogna was high-risk and was concerned he would try something with other underage girls and young women.
According to the same affidavit, Hunt's colleague observed Mignogna touching both male and female attendees during autograph sessions, in ways that Hunt's colleague thought was inappropriate. According to Hunt's colleague, Mignogna gave the attendees close and tight hugs and longer than normal hugs. He was also described by Hunt's colleague as moving his hands down toward the lower backside of a young woman or girl, and grabbing a woman's hair.
The colleague alleged that Mignogna was not seen to ask for consent. They said that several attendees approached them directly after the event and said they felt uncomfortable after Mignogna touched them.
Lynn Hunt said that in 2009, she encountered Mignogna again at the Anime Central convention in Rosemont, where she was responsible for scheduling events for the voice actor. At one point, they were in the convention green room when Mignogna allegedly hugged Hunt and, to her shock, he squeezed her buttocks. Hunt said this made her feel violated and extremely upset.
Green rooms are staff and guest lounges and are common at conventions in the U.S.
According to Hunt, both Mignogna and Mari Iijima were once again guests at the Tekkoshocon event in 2010. This is where Mignogna, Hunt claimed, began stalking the voice actress. His alleged pursuit of Iijima got to the point that the voice actress was secretly rebooked to a room on a separate floor and wing of her hotel. Hunt also said that Iijima was so frightened of Mignogna that she was given a security detail.
ANN contacted Jim Gogal, who was the was President of the Board of Tekkoshocon Inc. and Chief Executive Officer in 2010. He told ANN that Iijima's room was moved once during the 2010 event.
According to Gogal, “She had reported to me that Mignogna had been calling her room and showed up there at one point. She was moved to a different room inside the same hotel. This room was booked under a different name to prevent any future incidents. Iijima was also given extra security afterwards.” Gogal said Iijima remained in her new room for the duration of the event.
Gogal also stated, “Mignogna and Iijima's schedules were specifically made so they would not encounter each other at her [Iijima's] request. This was because, as she relayed to me, his past behavior and harassment to her.”
ANN sent a query to Iijima about the alleged incidents involving Mignogna at either the 2007 or 2010 Tekkoshocon event. Iijima declined to comment on the matters.
In Mignogna's deposition on June 26, he stated that he did not recall being uninvited from Tekkoshocon and that his absence from the convention was not related to allegations that he was stalking someone at the event. He also denied knowing Hunt or her colleague.
Hunt says that at the 2010 event, Tekkoshocon gave Mignogna a “rumors panel to make excuses for the rumors” about him. Gogal sent ANN a copy of the panel description, in which it is listed as “Rumors with Vic Mignogna.” Part of the event description reads, “In the anime industry, a lot of people make up lots of stories about lots of things for lots of reasons. Come to this panel with Vic and find out the real answers to some these rumors [sic]... and even ask questions about things you've heard yourself!”
Hunt posted a video of the panel on YouTube here, in multiple parts. The subject of sexual misconduct comes up in the video of the panel briefly (half a minute in to the seventh part, here), where one member of the audience said another person claimed Mignoga was “a little too friendly with his younger female fans.” Mignogna's response in the video is that fans want to hug him, and that "the people that I do embrace appreciate that I embrace them, that I care enough about them to do that."
Hunt told ANN, “Tekko skewed much, much younger than any other con I staffed with a high number of high school kids (and even younger) being a visible presence.”
She said that she notified the Tekko convention staff on June 9, 2019 to give them a “heads up” that she would be posting material regarding Mignogna on Twitter. She said that she received no response from Tekko until after she started posting the material on June 27.
Tekko issued a statement on Twitter that said that no member of the current Board of Directors was present during the years in question, and that no documented harassment issues were passed along by the previous leadership team during the transition period.
Message from the Pittsburgh Japanese Culture Society Board of Directors pic.twitter.com/ipXRpF5izu— Tekko (@TeamTekko) June 28, 2019
Mignogna stated in his deposition on June 26 that he was invited to the Tekko event in Pittsburgh three years ago and that "it was run by the same people that ran Tekkoshocon."
Jack Varney, a board of directors member for the Pittsburgh Japanese Culture Society that runs the Tekko and Sangawa Project conventions and Tekko's current Director of Marketing and Communications, told ANN, "Any appearance by Vic before 2013 was through the former management team. Our current Board of Directors did invite Vic to our companion convention, Sangawa Project and then Tekko over the past few years. However, this was prior to knowing about any and all accusations of harassment and misconduct. Again, in our official statement, we do not have any reported or documented incidents during those particular recent appearances."
Varney agreed that Mignogna was mistaken when he stated in his deposition that the convention was run by the same staff. Varney stated that the current Tekko convention team and the Pittsburgh Japanese Culture Society's founding members did not and currently does not not include any former Tekkoshocon staff.
According to Team Tekko's statement, “At Tekko 2018, Vic Mignogna was a guest and there were no incident reports submitted. Additionally, no related incidents were brought to our attention by our Harassment Response Office regarding infractions of our strict Harassment Policy.”
Anime News Network reached out to Mignogna and his counsel Ty Beard for comment on the Tekkoshocon allegations but they did not respond by press time.
Mignogna filed the lawsuit against Funimation, voice actresses Jamie Marchi and Monica Rial, and Rial's fiancée Ronald Toye 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: E-mail correspondence