Famed local actor John Suda has only been given a suspended sentence after a court found him guilty of sexually assaulting a 22-year-old actress during her audition for a soap opera.
The court heard how Suda had invited the actress for a personal training session after she had successfully auditioned for a role in a soap opera. When she turned up, Suda locked the door and ordered the young actress to strip naked and recite her lines as a strategy to improve her confidence.
He then made wear her a blindfold, grabbed her head, placed his penis in her mouth and kissed her face and neck, all the time telling her to recite her lines. Suda told her that her character would have sex with an older man in one of the episodes, and when she pointed out such a scene wasn’t in the script, the veteran actor accused her of being “stiff”.
Suda then removed the girl’s blindfold and instructed her to lie on top of him and “pretend to raise him from the dead”. When she only lied beside him, Suda pulled her on top on his body, started touching her and instructed her to recite lines to his penis.
He then moved her mouth near his genitals and ordered her to recite her lines again. When she refused, he grabbed her head again and pushed it towards his genitals, ending the session there.
The court heard how the actress was so traumatised that she suffered a psychological collapse at work and couldn’t leave home for three days.
When Suda was arrested, he told police he had acted similarly with other actresses during workshops as a means of testing their ability to stay cool. He said that nobody speaks about what goes on in the workshops because “it’s a professional thing and it is unethical to talk about it.”
In court, he presented literature to back up his method, which he said ws intended to target the inhibition of nakedness. However, he admitted he never held such sessions with male actors.
Testifying, the young woman said Suda had told her she had to be prepared to do what he was asking her to do if she wanted to be a good actress.
“He was an actor that I used to look up to. He has a big name in Malta and once I was expressing that I don’t feel [comfortable] he kept on insisting and as I said I had no other option,” she said.
Magistrate Audrey Demicoli said she was convinced the victim did not want to be trained in such a manner and that Suda was trying to subjugate her to his will.
She found Suda guilty of violent indecent assault, but not of holding the girl against her will, as she agreed he had locked the door to prevent other people from walking in and not to stop her from escaping.
She sentenced him to 12 months imprisonment, suspended for two years, and issued a protection order in favour of the actress.