'Rick and Morty' co-creator Justin Roiland faces felony domestic violence charges

Justin Roiland, the star and co-creator of the animated comedy series “Rick and Morty,” has been charged with felony domestic violence in Orange County, California, in connection with a 2020 incident, according to a criminal complaint filed in May 2020 by the Orange County District Attorney. He appeared in court Thursday for a pre-trial hearing.

Roiland pleaded not guilty in 2020. In a statement, one of Roiland's attorneys wrote that his client is innocent and he expects the case will be dismissed.

"We look forward to clearing Justin's name and helping him move forward as swiftly as possible," attorney T. Edward Welbourn wrote.

NBC News obtained the criminal complaint in the case, which charges Roiland, 42, with one felony count of domestic battery with corporal injury and one felony count of false imprisonment by menace, violence, fraud and/or deceit. NBC News is the first to report publicly on the case.

The complaint states the incident occurred on or about Jan. 19, 2020, against an anonymous Jane Doe who was dating Roiland at the time.

According to Orange County Superior Court records, Roiland pleaded not guilty to both charges in October 2020. Since then, the case has been the subject of more than a dozen court hearings, including pre-trial hearings. A trial date is not currently set.

Many court records remained sealed but the available public documents seen by NBC News say Roiland was charged in May 2020. Roiland was arrested and released on a $50,000 bond in August 2020 and arraigned in October 2020.

A protective order filed in October 2020 and documented in the court minutes said Roiland is not to harass, threaten or surveil the person named in the protective order, who is not known to NBC News. Roiland cannot go within 100 feet of the person, according to the order, which also ordered Roiland to turn in any firearms he owned or possessed. The order lasts until October 2023, and it’s not known who submitted the request for the order.

Details of the case, including police body camera footage, police reports, abuse investigation reports, medical reports and recordings of interviews are currently being withheld from the public under a protective order. The affidavit in support of Roiland’s arrest is also sealed.

During Thursday’s hearing, Roiland’s attorney confirmed there is a plea offer available to Roiland, but did not discuss details. The brief hearing concluded a moment later with an agreement to convene again on April 27. Roiland was ordered to attend the hearing.

Roiland is best known for Adult Swim’s “Rick and Morty,” which has spawned a billion-dollar media and merchandising franchise and is one of the most popular adult television comedies. The show’s sixth season aired in September 2022, and a seventh season was ordered by Cartoon Network as part of a long-term deal for 70 new episodes. Roiland, in addition to co-creating the series with Dan Harmon, voices the two titular characters.

Adult Swim, whose parent company Warner Bros. Discovery also owns Cartoon Network, declined to comment.

Over the past three years, as the domestic violence case has inched along, Roiland’s career has progressed. He released an NFT art collection with over a dozen works in 2021, which sold for over $1.65 million. He released another NFT project in 2022. Roiland also sold his first painting via Sotheby’s auction in 2021.

Roiland also co-created and voiced the main character in Hulu’s “Solar Opposites,” which debuted in 2020 and was renewed for a fifth season in October 2022. Most recently, he was behind Hulu’s “Koala Man” series, the first episode of which was released this month.

Roiland also released the video game “High on Life” in 2022, which he developed through his studio Squanch Games. It became the top-selling game on Steam and the fourth most-played Xbox game the week of its release. Roiland won an Emmy for “Rick and Morty” in 2020 and a Hollywood Critics Choice Association TV award for the show in 2022.

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