Kevin Spacey not guilty in US sexual misconduct trial

Kevin Spacey, center, leaves the Daniel Patrick Moynihan Court House on Thursday 20 October 2022, in New York
Kevin Spacey, center, leaves the Daniel Patrick Moynihan Court House on Thursday 20 October 2022, in New York   -   Copyright  Andres Kudacki/Copyright 2022 The AP. All rights reserved.
By David Mouriquand

A jury sided with Kevin Spacey on Thursday in one of the lawsuits that derailed the film star’s career, finding he did not sexually abuse Anthony Rapp, then 14, while both were in Broadway plays in 1986.

The jury of five men and six women deliberated for just under 90 minutes yesterday before deciding that Rapp hadn't proven his allegations. Rapp appeared stoic as the verdict was read, and his lawyers seemed dejected as they left the courthouse in downtown Manhattan.

When the verdict was read, Spacey dropped his head, then hugged his lawyers. He didn't speak to reporters as he left the courthouse.

“We’re very grateful to the jury for seeing through these false allegations,” said Spacey's attorney, Jennifer Keller.

“What’s next is Mr. Spacey is going to be proven that he’s innocent of anything he’s been accused of. That there was no truth to any of the allegations,” she added, a reference to other sexual misconduct claims against the actor, including criminal charges in England.

In a statement posted on Twitter, Rapp said he was "deeply grateful for the opportunity to have my case heard before a jury, and I thank the members of the jury for their service."

"Bringing this lawsuit was always about shining a light, as part of the larger movement to stand up against all forms of sexual violence," Rapp said, vowing to continue to advocate for "a world that is free from sexual violence of any kind."

Rapp's accusations

During the trial, Rapp testified that Spacey had invited him to his apartment for a party, then approached him in a bedroom after the other guests left. He said the actor, then 26, picked him up and laid partially on top of him on a bed before he wriggled away and fled as an inebriated Spacey asked if he was sure he wanted to leave.

Spacey testified that he was sure the encounter with Rapp never happened, in part because he was living in a studio apartment rather than the one bedroom that Rapp cited, and he never had a gathering beyond a housewarming party.

“I knew I wouldn’t have any sexual interest in Anthony Rapp or any child. That I knew,” he told jurors.

During her closing arguments to the jury, Keller suggested reasons Rapp imagined the encounter with Spacey or made it up.

It was possible, she said, that Rapp invented it based on his experience performing in Precious Sons, a play in which actor Ed Harris picks up Rapp’s character and lays on top of him, mistaking him briefly for his wife before discovering it is his son.

She also suggested that Rapp later grew jealous that Spacey became a megastar while Rapp had “smaller roles in small shows” after his breakthrough performance in Broadway’s Rent.

“Fame did not follow him,” Keller said. “Mr. Rapp's coach has turned into a pumpkin.”

“So here we are today and Mr. Rapp is getting more attention from this trial than he has in his entire acting life,” Keller said. She said Rapp is well known now because he's taken down one of Hollywood's biggest actors.

The lawsuit sought $40 million in damages.

Ted Shaffrey/Copyright 2022 The AP. All rights reserved.
Actor Anthony Rapp, right, and Ken Ithiphol arrive at a federal courthouse in lower Manhattan in New York on Thursday 20 October for a civil case against actor Kevin SpaceyTed Shaffrey/Copyright 2022 The AP. All rights reserved.

Emotional testimonies

The two men delivered tearful testimonies on the witness stand.

Rapp fought back tears as he recalled the details of the alleged encounter he described as “incredibly frightening and very alarming.”

“I didn’t ask for him to do that,” he told jurors, referring to Spacey’s alleged sexual advance. “I didn’t want him to do that.”

Spacey repeatedly broke down crying during his testimony. He told the jury it never happened, and he would never have been attracted to someone who was 14.

Spacey expressed regret for a 2017 statement he issued when Rapp first went public, in which he said he didn’t recall the encounter, but if it happened “I owe him the sincerest apology for what would have been deeply inappropriate drunken behavior.”

Dabbing his eyes with a tissue, Spacey said he'd been pressured by publicists and lawyers into issuing an empathetic statement at a time when the #MeToo movement made everyone in the industry nervous.

“I’ve learned a lesson, which is never apologize for something you didn’t do,” he said.

He also cried as he said he regretted revealing publicly that he was gay the same day Rapp’s accusations surfaced because some interpreted his announcement as an effort to change the subject or deflect from Rapp’s revelations.

Spacey spoke at the trial about deeply personal matters, telling the jury about his “humiliating and terrifying” upbringing as the son of a man he described as a “white supremacist and neo-Nazi” who berated him as gay because he liked the theater. He said that he struggled to come out publicly as gay because of his father’s homophobic and antisemitic views.

Spacey also gave courtroom spectators a brief taste of his acting chops when he imitated his Broadway costar at the time, Jack Lemmon. He had testified earlier that his ability at impressions aided him in his acting career.

Andres Kudacki/Copyright 2022 The AP. All rights reserved.
Kevin Spacey leaves the Daniel Patrick Moynihan Court House on Thursday 20 October in New York.Andres Kudacki/Copyright 2022 The AP. All rights reserved.

Spacey facing more charges; Paul Haggis next on trial

In his closing statements to the jury Thursday, Rapp's lawyer, Richard Steigman, accused Spacey of lying on the witness stand.

“He lacks credibility,” Steigman said. “Sometimes the simple truth is the best. The simple truth is that this happened.”

“Anthony told his truth,” said Steigman. “We respect the jury’s verdict, but it doesn’t change his truth.”

Rapp, 50, and Spacey, 63, each testified over several days at the three-week trial.

Rapp’s claims, and those of others, abruptly interrupted what had been a soaring career for the two-time Academy Award winning actor, who lost his job on the Netflix series House of Cards and saw other opportunities dry up. Rapp is a regular on TV’s Star Trek: Discovery.

Spacey faced charges in Massachusetts that he groped a man at a bar — allegations that were later dropped by prosecutors.

Three months ago, he pleaded not guilty in London to charges that he sexually assaulted three men between 2004 and 2015 when he was the artistic director at the Old Vic theater in London.

A judge in Los Angeles this summer approved an arbitrator’s decision to order Spacey to pay $30.9 million to the makers of House of Cards for violating his contract by sexually harassing crew members.

Five years since the beginning of #MeToo, this autumn also sees other alleged and convicted sex predators - who have fallen from Hollywood grace - facing trial for sexual offenses. Paul Haggis is next for his long-awaited court battle. Like Spacey, the Oscar-winner denies his rape charge and is fighting it, believing that the accusations are a retaliatory act for leaving the church of Scientology.

Additional sources • AP