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What we know about Justin Roiland’s felony domestic violence charges

The Rick and Morty, High on Life creator was arrested and charged in 2020, but the case remained quiet until 2022

a photo of Justin Roiland on the red carpet at The Game Awards 2017 Photo: Leon Bennett/WireImage
Nicole Carpenter is a senior reporter specializing in investigative features about labor issues in the game industry, as well as the business and culture of games.

Justin Roiland, co-creator and star of animated comedy Rick and Morty and the game High on Life, is facing felony domestic violence charges related to an incident in January 2020. NBC News reported the arrest and charges on Thursday, citing a criminal complaint filed in May 2020 in Orange County, California, by the county’s district attorney. Roiland was in court Thursday for a pretrial hearing.

Roiland has been charged with two felonies: one count of “domestic battery with corporal injury” and one count of “false imprisonment by menace, violence, fraud, and/or deceit,” according to court records. If convicted, Roiland could face several years in prison. The Rick and Morty co-creator was arrested in August 2020 and released on a $50,000 bond. Roiland pleaded not guilty to both charges at his Oct. 14, 2020, arraignment. Details of the case remain limited; NBC News said that some documents are sealed, keeping certain information inaccessible by the public and media.

Since his arraignment, Roiland has appeared in court for a variety of pretrial meetings, the next of which is scheduled for April 27. The court has not yet set a trial date.

T. Edward Welbourn, attorney for Justin Roiland, said in a statement to Polygon, “It is hard to overstate how inaccurate the recent media coverage of this situation has been. To be clear, not only is Justin innocent but we also have every expectation that this matter is on course to be dismissed once the District Attorney’s office has completed its methodical review of the evidence. We look forward to clearing Justin’s name and helping him move forward as swiftly as possible.”

NBC News also reported that a protective order was filed against Roiland in October 2020, but it’s not immediately clear who filed the order. The order prohibits Roiland from being within 100 feet of the person in question; he’s also been ordered not to “harass, threaten or surveil” that person, and to turn over any firearms he may have owned, according to NBC News.

Roiland is best known for having co-created Rick and Morty in 2012 with Dan Harmon. Roiland voices both of the titular characters, Rick Sanchez and his grandson Morty Smith. Rick and Morty has been one of Adult Swim’s most popular shows over its six seasons. In 2018, Adult Swim ordered 70 new episodes of the show, which would extend the show to approximately 10 seasons. Reached for comment, an Adult Swim representative had no comment on the charges against Roiland.

Roiland also formed a game studio, Squanch Games (formerly known as Squanchtendo), in 2016. The company has released four games: Accounting, Dr. Splorchy Presents: Space Heroes, Trover Saves the Universe, and High on Life. High on Life debuted in December 2022 and quickly became a huge success — it was the biggest Game Pass launch of the year. Squanch Games has not responded to Polygon’s request for comment.

Update (Jan. 24): Adult Swim is no longer working with Rick and Morty co-creator Justin Roiland weeks after the news of his felony domestic violence charges was reported. Adult Swim issued a statement Tuesday, saying only that “Adult Swim has ended its association with Justin Roiland.”

Adult Swim is locked in to 10 seasons of Rick and Morty, per an agreement from 2018. The show will continue, and the staff is currently working on season 7, according to a tweet from the Rick and Morty Twitter account.

The Hollywood Reporter said the show will continue with new voices for Roiland’s roles — the titular characters.

Update 2 (Jan. 24): Justin Roiland resigned from Squanch Games on Jan. 16, days after NBC News published the news of his felony charges, the game developer announced on Twitter. “The passionate team at Squanch will keep developing games we know our fans will love while continuing to support and improve High On Life,” Squanch Games tweeted.

Squanch Games released its fourth game, High On Life, to massive success late last year.

Update (Jan. 25): 20th Television Animation and Hulu Originals have ended their relationship with Justin Roiland, the companies announced on Wednesday. The two shows Roiland worked on for the production company and streaming service, Koala Man and Solar Opposites, will continue but without his involvement.

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