Although she is arguably best-known for entertaining fans in the Netflix comedy series Orange Is the New Black, actress Dascha Polanco now faces high stakes drama in the real world’s criminal justice system. Polanco, 33, appeared in Manhattan Criminal Court on Thursday to answer charges of assault and harassment, according to Daily Mail and other news sources. Web site Latina reports that the most serious charge against Polanco is a Class A misdemeanor of assault with intent to cause physical injury, which carries a maximum penalty of one year in jail.
Celebrity news and gossip outlet Perez Hilton notes that Polanco is accused of beating up a 17-year-old female during a July 29 altercation at the girl’s Upper Manhattan home. Polanco was arrested shortly after the initial incident but she was later released pending an investigation.
In a summary of court documents obtained by Page Six, Dascha Polanco is accused of striking the victim in the face and head at least three times, pulling her hair, and striking her arms with her hands and her fingernails. According to police, the victim was later hospitalized, suffering “bruising and redness to her face, scratches to her arms, and substantial pain.” Police reports do not indicate what precipitated the alleged assault.
Dascha Polanco declined to comment as she left the courthouse on Thursday, but her legal counsel maintains that the entire incident is a fabrication conjured up by the victim to extort money from a celebrity. In a statement, attorney Gerald Lefcourt expressed confidence that charges against the Orange Is The New Black star will ultimately be dismissed.
“It’s a set-up to try to get money and it was tape-recorded,” Lefcourt said. “This young woman was trying to extort her to drop the case. We’re confident the charges will be dismissed.”
The aforementioned report by Perez Hilton indicates that Lefcourt has already provided the tape recording to the court.
Polanco plays prison inmate Dayanara “Daya” Diaz on Orange Is The New Black. Her character is involved in an intimate relationship with prison guard John Bennett, who is played by actor Matt McGory. Her character was pregnant for the first and second seasons, providing viewers with a good deal of suspense as to what would happen to her baby once she gave birth from behind bars.
Currently in its third season – and renewed for a fourth season – Orange is The New Black has garnered critical acclaim and scores of industry recognition, including nominations for Emmy Awards, Golden Globes, and Screen Actors Guild Awards. According to IMDb, Polanco herself shares an American Latino Media Arts Award with actress Selenis Leyva for “Special Achievement in Television.” She also shared a SAG award with the cast of Orange Is The New Black in 2013.
Dascha Polanco is relatively new to the entertainment industry, first breaking into the business in 2011. A 2013 profile of Polanco indicates she has a bachelor’s degree in psychology, but she also attended nursing school. In 2013, she told Huffington Post that she ran an equipment room at a hospital in the Bronx before she took up acting.
Page Six noted that the Court made special accommodations for Polanco’s work schedule, bumping her original August 21 arraignment to December 3. After her Thursday court appearance, Dascha Polanco was released without bail with instructions to avoid the alleged victim. Her next appearance is scheduled for early 2016.
[Photo by Grant Lamos IV/Getty Images]