Brazilian court acquits Argentine actor of sexual assault

Juan Darthés was first sued by Thelma Fardin in 2018

thelma fardin

Yesterday, Sao Paolo Federal Judge Fernando Toledo Carneiro acquitted Argentine actor Juan Darthés in the trial for sexual assault that started after a 2018 lawsuit presented by Argentine actress Thelma Fardin. 

Fardin was 16 when she was sexually assaulted by Darthés in 2009 during a tour of the TV show they both performed in, Patito Feo. He was 45 at the time.  

Fardin first spoke publicly about it in 2018 after filing a lawsuit in Nicaragua, where the events happened. Her story became a landmark of the local Me Too movement and led her to pursue justice in three countries – Nicaragua, Argentina and Brazil. Yesterday, the ruling signed by the judge considered that, although certain aspects of the sexual assault against Fardin were proven, the investigation had not been able to confirm that she had been penetrated, which kept them from condemning Darthés for his acts under Brazilian law. 

“I’m tired, but they won’t break me,” Fardin said yesterday during a press conference held in the Amnesty International headquarters. “The ruling says that they prove the sexual abuse to be true. This is not over.”

According to testimonies during the trial, Fardin spoke about the attack with a few colleagues and friends, as well as her therapist, over the years. When allegations against Darthés by other female colleagues began to surface in 2018, she felt encouraged to file a lawsuit against him. But the judicial process in this case became increasingly complex, as the events had happened in Nicaragua and Darthés is originally from Brazil. 

Fardin filed a lawsuit in Nicaragua against Darthés in December 2018, which was followed by a campaign in Argentina under the hashtag #MiraComoNosPonemos. The phrase broadly means “This is how we get” in Spanish, subverting what Darthés said to Fardin during the assault (“Mirá como me ponés” or “Look what you do to me”).

Supported by the Argentine Actresses organization, which reunites feminist advocates in theatre and film, the campaign became massive. A few days after its launch, Darthés and his family moved to Brazil.

The move was allegedly to “redo” his life. Brazil’s constitution prohibits the extradition of its citizens. 

In 2019, the Nicaraguan justice ordered Darthés’ extradition, but the judiciary Brazilian law mandates that its citizens must be tried within its territory. That’s when the Public Prosecutor’s Office from Sao Paolo opened an investigation which led to the trial that started in November 2021 and ended yesterday. 

In the sentence, the judge considers that there’s not enough evidence to prove that there was penetration, which was a necessary stipulation to convict a person for sexual assault in Brazil before 2010. 

​​“It is not a matter of blaming the victim for taking time to narrate the facts, as it is well known that there is a complex process involved in the reporting of crimes of this nature, and it is common for a long period of time before the victim is physically and psychologically prepared to talk about the facts,” said the ruling, which the Herald had access to. 

“For the conviction, a high degree of proof of the accused is necessary. And in the absence of elements such as the body of the crime, this degree of proof dissipates.”

Fardin and her legal team said yesterday that they will appeal. Fernando Burlando, Darthés’ lawyer, said that his client “could pursue legal action” against Fardin. 

During his testimony, in October 2022, Darthés’ denied all claims against him and said he is innocent. 

Support and backlash 

When the #MiraComoNosPonemos campaign was launched, several feminist movements gathered to support Fardin and others who spoke up about acts of violence they had suffered in the entertainment industry. However, anti-feminist movements also organized to undermine the stories told by women who denounced violent men. 

Yesterday, after the Brazil ruling was made public, journalist Luciana Peker wrote an op-ed in Infobae, the news outlet she works for covering gender issues, saying that she is being threatened for her work covering cases like Fardin’s. 

“If you’re a journalist and you’re covering abuses in a serious and solid way, radical sectors will chase after you, put your life at risk, threaten you, challenge your work and dynamite your mental health,” she wrote. 

“We writers live under persecution, harassment, and threats which make it impossible for us to engage in journalism that guarantees the freedom to report and stop abuses,” she said. 


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