The Rosario Dawson Controversy Explained

Actress Rosario Dawson boasts an extensive list of TV and film credits dating back to the mid-1990s. From voicing Wonder Woman and Batgirl in animated DC projects to portraying nurse Claire Temple in the MCU, Dawson has long been a fixture of pop culture. In 2020, she even joined the "Star Wars" universe as Ahsoka Tano in "The Mandalorian," a role she will return to for the Disney+ limited series "Ahsoka."

Dawson has made headlines for more than just her career triumphs in recent years, however. In 2019, she and her family were sued for an alleged transphobic assault, along with discrimination, civil rights violations, and other charges. The case appears to have concluded after an almost two year ordeal, but the lingering negative perceptions about Dawson brought up by the lawsuit may not subside anytime soon.

In case you missed the details, here's what you need to know about the Rosario Dawson controversy.

A former employee accused Dawson's family of verbal and physical abuse

On October 18, 2019, Dedreck Finley brought a lawsuit to the Los Angeles County Superior Courts (via TMZ), alleging that Dawson and three members of her family violated his civil rights. He sought damages based on the claim that they had discriminated against him due to his transgender status, resulting in battery, assault and emotional distress while in their employment (per NBC News). 

The suit stated that longtime acquaintance Finley moved from New York to L.A. in December 2017 to become the Dawson family handyman and "renovate and remodel Rosario's personal residence." According to Finley's attorney, the family knew Finley "as a lesbian woman." After moving into a North Hollywood apartment the family had rented, he came out to them as transgender with he/him/his pronouns. He did not expect the negative reception he allegedly received. "I felt it just wasn't celebrated at all. It felt flat. And it felt like a burden," Finley told Out Magazine. He said his gender identity was disregarded, that Dawson's father Gregory would scream at him, and that Dawson herself refused to take action to stop the abuse.

Things got worse, Finley claimed, when the family tried to get him to leave using illegal tactics. Isabel Dawson, Rosario's mother, supposedly threatened him and his cat and attacked him and took his cellphone while Rosario restrained him. He ended up receiving treatment at a hospital and was granted a temporary restraining order against Isabel, the suit said. After additional conflicts, Finley moved out in September 2018.

Finley retracted all but two claims by August 2020

Rosario Dawson's lawyer released a statement not long after the initial claims came to light. It said, "The Dawson family is saddened and disappointed by these false and baseless allegations" (via New York Daily News). The following year, Finley retracted all but two of the 20 claims he made in the original filing. The remaining claims involved the assault by Isabel Dawson. Also, his lawyer withdrew from the case.

Dawson spoke out about the matter herself in an interview with Vanity Fair from November 30, 2020. She asserted that she understood why people were concerned. "I would be too if I heard some of those claims. But I mean, as we're seeing right now in these past months, and just recently, actually, the truth is coming out," the actress said. "The fact that this is coming from someone I've known since I was a teenager, the better part of my life, and who my family was trying to help as we have many times in the past, it really just makes me sad. But I still have a great empathy for him." 

Dawson, who came out in 2020 during an interview with Bustle and is currently living with New Jersey senator Cory Booker, went on to say, "The reason that all of the discrimination claims were dropped is because they didn't happen. I was raised in a very inclusive and loving way, and that's how I've lived my entire life. I've always used my voice to fight for, lift up, and empower the LGBTQA community, and use my platform to channel trans voices, in fiction and nonfiction work that I've produced and directed. So I feel the record is really clear."

The suit against Dawson was dismissed in May 2021

Vanity Fair reported that the suit lost additional steam when Finley, ordered to produce evidence and submit to an independent medical examination to prove his final two claims, failed to do so. On May 21, 2021, the court issued a quiet judgment: "The court hereby dismisses the action," it ruled

Finley reached out to Vanity Fair after the article went live, saying, "My next step is to appeal." He claimed he did not complete the medical examination because he had been diagnosed with COVID-19 and that the court declined his request to reschedule. He believes he was "shut down by money and power," and wrote, "I wanted desperately to get in front of a jury and present my case and let the people decide. I believe when everything comes out, and it always does, I will be vindicated and we will know the truth. I am willing to answer any questions from anyone. I have nothing to hide."

Meanwhile, Dawson expressed her relief in a tweet that included a link to the Vanity Fair article. "My family is pleased that this baseless suit is over. While the vast majority of the false claims had been voluntarily withdrawn last year-including every single false claim of discrimination-the court has now terminated the remainder of the case allowing us all to move forward."

For now, the legal battle seems to have ended.