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Musician FKA twigs accuses Shia LaBeouf of physical, emotional abuse in lawsuit

FKA twigs, whose real name is Tahliah Barnett, performs at the El Rey Theatre on Aug. 12.
(Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times)

Musician FKA twigs filed a lawsuit Friday against Shia LaBeouf, accusing the actor of repeated physical and sexual assault during an abusive, yearlong relationship.

In the lawsuit filed in Los Angeles County Superior Court, the 32-year-old British singer-songwriter, whose real name is Tahliah Barnett, described her time with LaBeouf as a “relentless abusive relationship.” She is seeking damages for sexual battery, assault and infliction of emotional distress.

The court filing recounts how Barnett began dating LaBeouf after the pair worked together on the movie “Honey Boy” and moved into together in October 2018. What followed, she alleged in the lawsuit, were frequent episodes of verbal and emotional abuse that escalated into physical assaults by the "Transformers” franchise actor as he “became increasingly violent.”

During a trip to a spa outside Los Angeles around Valentine’s Day in 2019, the singer said she awoke to find the actor violently squeezing her. He then began strangling her with his hands, whispering, “If you don’t stop you are going to lose me,” according to the suit. The lawsuit does not elaborate on LaBeouf’s alleged comment.

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As they drove home the following day, the actor threatened to crash the car unless Barnett professed her love for him, the lawsuit claims. When she attempted to escape at a gas station, the actor slammed her against the car and attempted to strangle her in the parking lot, according to the lawsuit.

LaBeouf has a string of arrests, often involving violence and alcohol.

In 2007, he was arrested on suspicion of fighting with a neighbor in Van Nuys, and the next year he was held on suspicion of driving under the influence after hitting another car. In 2014, while attending a Broadway performance, he was arrested during intermission on suspicion of causing a disturbance and being drunk and disorderly. He was arrested in Austin, Texas, on similar charges in 2015.

In September, LaBeouf was charged with misdemeanor battery and theft by the Los Angeles city attorney for allegedly taking a man’s hat in a physical confrontation. He has pleaded not guilty to the charge.

The lawsuit details other alleged abuses Barnett and another former girlfriend suffered at the hands of LaBeouf. In March 2019, LaBeouf locked Barnett in a room when she tried to leave their house, according to the lawsuit, which includes an eyewitness account of the incident by a housekeeper.

And during their yearlong relationship, the lawsuit alleges, LaBeouf, who was playing a gangster in the movie “The Tax Collector,” would take on the “role in real life” and would sometimes brandish a handgun in a car. The suit alleges he claimed he had killed stray dogs so he would know what it felt like to take a life. Barnett alleged LaBeouf sometimes slept with guns in the bedroom, including a loaded rifle at his bedside, and was paranoid about being attacked by gang members.

The lawsuit was first reported by the New York Times.

In a response to the suit, the actor told the New York Times that “many of these allegations are not true.”

But he added, “I am not in the position to defend any of my actions. I owe these women the opportunity to air their statements publicly and accept accountability for those things I have done.”

LaBeouf went on to tell the newspaper that it was difficult “to accept the knowledge that I may have caused great pain to others .... I write this as a sober member of a twelve-step program and in therapy for my many failings.”

Friday’s lawsuit said Barnett, along with the other former girlfriend, attempted to convince LaBeouf to seek treatment for substance abuse and mental health issues, as well as to make amends by donating to a domestic violence shelter.

“Shia LaBeouf has abused Ms. Barnett ... and others. We tried to resolve this matter privately on the condition that Mr. LaBeouf agree to receive meaningful and consistent psychological treatment. Since he was unwilling to agree to get appropriate help, Ms. Barnett filed this suit to prevent others from unknowingly suffering similar abuse by him,” Barnett’s attorney Bryan Freedman said in a statement.

While she is identified in the lawsuit, the Los Angeles Times is not naming the second woman because of the nature of the alleged abuse, and she could not be reached for comment.

The allegation of sexual battery arises from an accusation in the lawsuit that the actor knowingly gave Barnett a sexually transmitted disease. According to the lawsuit, LaBeouf admitted to having the disease and used makeup to conceal physical signs of it on his body during an outbreak.


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