LOS ANGELES (CNS) - A 41-year-old man pleaded not guilty today to a pair of felony charges for allegedly trying to extort money from Kevin Hart by shopping a video of the married actor/comedian with a woman in Las Vegas last year.
Jonathan Todd Jackson was charged May 2 with one felony count each of attempted extortion and extortion by threatening letter. He could face up to four years in jail if convicted as charged, according to the Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office.
Jackson's attorney, Chad Lewin, said outside court, “We are going to vigorously defend against these allegations and look forward to our day in court.”
Prosecutors contend that Jackson -- also known as “Action Jackson” -- tried to extort an undisclosed amount of money from Hart in August 2017, saying he had a videotape of the comedian carousing with another woman in Las Vegas and was trying to peddle it to various celebrity websites.
At the time of the alleged extortion attempt, Hart's wife, Eniko, was pregnant with their first child. Hart also has two other children from a previous relationship.
Hart went public after news of the alleged videotape surfaced. He posted an apologetic video online, admitting he made an “error in judgment” but saying he would not give in to extortion.
“I'm at a place in my life where I feel like I have a target on my back,” Hart said on the video. “And because of that I should make smart decisions. And recently, I didn't. You know, I'm not perfect. I'm not going to sit up here and say that I am or claim to be in any way shape or form. And I made a bad error in judgment and I put myself in a bad environment where only bad things can happen and they did. And in doing that I know that I'm going to hurt the people closest to me, who I've talked to and apologized to, that would be my wife and my kids.
“And I just, you know, it's a (expletive) moment. It's a (expletive) moment when you know you're wrong and there's no excuses for your wrong behavior,” Hart said. “At the end of the day, man, I just simply have got to do better. But I'm also not going to allow a person to have financial gain off of my mistakes and in this particular situation that was what was attempted. I said I'd rather fess up to my mistakes.”
Last September, a woman named Montia Sabbag held a news conference with attorney Lisa Bloom saying she was the person seen with Hart in the video. She said she had an intimate relationship with Hart, but denied any involvement in the alleged extortion attempt.
“I'm not an extortionist. I'm not a stripper,” Sabbag said. “I'm a recording artist and an actress and I have not broken any laws.”
Jackson was ordered at a May 2 hearing not to have any personal, telephonic or electronic contact with Hart, and is free on $35,000 bond while awaiting his next appearance Oct. 29 in a downtown Los Angeles courtroom.
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