'Rick and Morty' Co-Creator Accused of Domestic Violence, Grooming
The voice of the animated hit's titular characters is embroiled in multiple scandals after news of a 2020 criminal case surfaced.
Award-winning television writer and game developer Justin Roiland was accused of sexual misconduct and grooming by multiple women on Thursday and Friday after news emerged that he is the subject of domestic violence charges in a 2020 case in California.
NBC reported that Roiland, the co-creator of the hit animated series “Rick and Morty” (Cartoon Network) and “Solar Opposites” (Hulu), is facing those charges in Orange County, Calif., on Thursday, sparking an uproar across the Internet and prompting others to come forward accusing Roiland of other misconduct.
Several women accused Roiland of messaging them inappropriately online, including one who was a minor at the time. On Friday, Kotaku reported that Roiland’s game studio, “High on Life” developer Squanch Games, settled a sexual harassment case brought by a former employee in 2018.
Orange County prosecutors charged Roiland with one felony count of domestic battery with corporal injury and one felony count of false imprisonment by menace, violence, fraud and/or deceit in May 2020 against an anonymous victim. Roiland was arrested and posted $50,000 bond in August 2020 and was arraigned in October 2020, but the case had never been made public prior to NBC’s reporting on Thursday.
Roiland pled not guilty to the charges in 2020 and the outcome of the case is still pending.
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Roiland’s attorneys issued a statement to NBC arguing his innocence. "We look forward to clearing Justin's name and helping him move forward as swiftly as possible," attorney T. Edward Welbourn of Corrigan Welbourn Stokke, who are representing Roiland in the matter, told the outlet.
After NBC’s reporting, several other women came forward across social media about inappropriate and sexual messages they received from Roiland. One woman posted a WhatsApp screenshot that showed after she opened up to Roiland about being sexually abused as a child, he expressed that he had a “kink” around that. Another posted a thread she had previously written about him hitting on her via text message when she was 16, and expressing that years later he wanted to meet up with her in her hometown of Raleigh, N.C.
In addition to the new allegations against Roiland, Kotaku reported on Friday about a 2018 lawsuit filed in Los Angeles Superior Court against his studio, Squanch, by former designer Sarah Doukakos, who alleged she was sexual harassed, discriminated against and wrongfully terminated. The allegations in the suit focus on then Squanch technical director Jeff Dixon and also allege that despite multiple reports, including to the company’s CEO, the company did not act. Instead, Doukakos said, she was terminated after the reports.
In the initial response to the suit, Squanch Games denied the allegations. But the suit was later settled out of court.
“Squanch Games is committed to creating an inclusive and supportive work environment for our team,” a Squanch Games spokesperson told Kotaku in a statement. “We don’t publicly disclose personnel matters, and we stand by the decision we made in 2017, not to reveal the confidential information as it relates to this case.”
At 42, Roiland is one of modern TV animation’s most accomplished writers and producers. Beginning his career in 2003, his real success came in 2013, when “Rick and Morty,” which he developed with “Community” creator Dan Harmon, began airing on Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim. In addition to his writing and production credits, Roiland voices both of the titular characters Rick and Morty. The show has won Primetime Emmy awards for Outstanding Animated Program in 2018 and 2020, among other accolades.
On the back of the show’s success, Roiland founded Squanch Games in 2016. It has produced three games since, including “High on Life,” which released in December.
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