In a victory for Kevin Spacey, a New York jury on Thursday afternoon found him not liable for aggravated assault over allegations he picked up actor Anthony Rapp and briefly lay on top of him in a bed after a party in 1986.
Jurors deliberated for about an hour and found that Rapp had not proven that Spacey “touched any sexual or intimate part” of Rapp.
Judge Lewis Kaplan formally dismissed the case. Lawyers sitting on either side of Spacey immediately put their hands on his back as the verdict was read.
“We are very grateful to the jury for seeing through these false allegations,” Jennifer Keller, one of Spacey’s attorneys, later said as she left court. Spacey did not speak to reporters when he left.
Best known for his role in “Star Trek: Discovery,” Rapp alleged that in 1986 Spacey, then 26, invited Rapp, then 14, to his Manhattan home where he picked up Rapp, had laid him down on his bed, grabbed his ass and pressed his groin into Rapp’s body without his consent.
The judge dismissed Rapp’s assault allegation before the start of the trial and dismissed his allegation of intentional infliction of emotional distress after Rapp’s attorneys closed his case, leaving the jury to decide solely on the allegation of blows and wounds. Under New York law, the battery touches another person, without their consent, in a way that a reasonable person would find offensive.
CNN legal analyst Joey Jackson saw Thursday’s verdict as a huge victory for Spacey, one that demonstrates that a jury can shrug off noise involving alleged celebrity wrongdoing in the Me Too movement and assess a case based on the facts presented to the court.
The case was also problematic legally, with two counts dismissed by the court – assault and intentional infliction of emotional distress – leaving the jury to consider only the allegation of assault and battery, Jackson said. .
“The jury clearly did not accept the factual assertions made by Rapp, thus finding him unbelievable,” Jackson added.
But the win was a “pyrrhic victory” for Spacey given other charges “weighing against him, including criminal charges in the UK,” CNN legal analyst Paul Callan said.
“Spacey has now won two victories in sexual abuse charges against him, including this case and the one previously dropped in Nantucket,” Callan said. “He does, however, face an uphill battle against other accusers and more serious criminal charges in the UK.”
Spacey was charged with four counts of sexual assault against three men and one count of causing a person to engage in penetrative sexual activity without their consent by Britain’s Crown Prosecution Service in May. Spacey pleaded not guilty at the expense.
In the Nantucket case, a man alleged Spacey groped him when he was an 18-year-old waiter at a restaurant. Spacey had pleaded not guilty. Prosecutors eventually dropped the criminal case against Spacey after the accuser pleaded the Fifth on the witness stand when questioned about his missing cellphone and whether or not to delete text messages.
In his closing argument, Rapp’s attorney, Richard Steigman, suggested that Spacey twisted his trial testimony to suit his defense, pointing to Spacey’s 2017 apology to Rapp when he first came forward. .
“Don’t listen to what I said in real time. I’m defending a lawsuit now. Listen to me now. I cleared it all up,” Steigman said, mocking Spacey’s attempt to convince the jury that he was coerced by publicists into making the statement he testified he now regrets.
Steigman called Spacey’s testimony repetitive compared to the raw testimony given by his client.
“When you’re rehearsing, and a world-class actor and you’re following someone else’s script and testimony, you can take that stance and be perfectly polite,” Steigman said. “When you just come to court showing up and telling the truth about your experience, especially one like this that’s a little complicated.”
Steigman also dismissed the defense argument that Rapp wanted to eliminate Spacey as a gay man.
“The point of the story is not that Kevin Spacey is gay. It’s that he sexually abused him when he was 14. That’s what he shares with people, he shares his experience – nothing more, nothing less. Where’s the proof that he told any media, you know, Kevin Spacey is gay, you should really run with that?
Keller, Spacey’s attorney, began his closing argument by addressing the shadow of the Me Too movement on the case, saying Rapp “hitched his wagon” to the movement when he came forward.
“It’s not a team sport where you’re either on the Me Too side or the other side,” Keller told the jury. “It’s a very different place. Our system requires evidence, evidence, objective evidence to support the charges provided to an unbiased jury. As polarized as society is today, it really shouldn’t belong here.
Keller suggested that Rapp drew his allegations against Spacey from an almost identical scene from the Broadway show “Precious Sons,” in which Rapp was performing with Ed Harris in 1986 at the time of the alleged incident.
“We are here because Mr. Rapp falsely alleged abuse that never happened at a party that never happened in a room that didn’t exist,” she said.
Spacey’s attorney concluded his remarks by asking the jury not to compromise their verdict by finding Spacey liable for battery but awarding Rapp only one dollar in damages.
“You are here to be judges of the facts. Did it happen? This does not happen. A penny is too much for something that didn’t happen,” Keller said.