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Kevin Spacey is going on trial in federal court. Here's what you need to know.

"Star Trek: Discovery" star Anthony Rapp is suing Oscar-winning actor Kevin Spacey over an alleged sexual assault in 1986, when Rapp was 14.
Image: Kevin Spacey court case
Kevin Spacey leaves the Old Bailey in London on July 14. James Manning / PA Images via Getty Images file

Five years after “Rent” star Anthony Rapp publicly accused the Oscar-winning actor Kevin Spacey of sexual assault when Rapp was a teenager, a jury will hear the case in federal court in New York.

The civil trial is scheduled to start Thursday in downtown Manhattan at the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York. Here’s what you need to know about the lawsuit.

What are Rapp’s allegations?

Rapp filed a lawsuit against Spacey (whose real name is Kevin Spacey Fowler) in September 2020. Rapp alleged that Spacey acted to gratify his sexual desire during an encounter at a Manhattan party in 1986, when Rapp was 14 and Spacey would have been 26 or 27.

Rapp is seeking compensatory and punitive damages. The trial will center on Rapp’s claims of battery and intentional infliction of emotional distress. The judge assigned to the case dismissed a sexual assault claim because Rapp brought it too late, according to a court document filed in June.

“Mr. Rapp claims that Mr. Fowler lifted him up, that Mr. Fowler’s hand his [sic] ‘grazed’ Mr. Rapp’s clothed buttocks for seconds as he did so, that Mr. Fowler placed Mr. Rapp back-down on a bed, and Mr. Fowler then briefly placed his own clothed body partially beside and partially across Mr. Rapp’s,” according to the court document.

Rapp “wriggled out” and left the party. He testified at his deposition that “there was no kissing, no undressing, no reaching under clothes, and no sexualized statements or innuendo,” according to the court document. He alleges the encounter lasted no more than two minutes.

Spacey denies Rapp’s allegations.

Rapp first publicly detailed his allegations in a BuzzFeed News article published on Oct. 29, 2017. In the article, Rapp is quoted as saying: “He picked me up like a groom picks up the bride over the threshold. But I don’t, like, squirm away initially, because I’m like, ‘What’s going on?’ And then he lays down on top of me.”

Image: Anthony Rapp
Anthony Rapp, as Paul Stametson on Paramount+'s "Star Trek: Discovery."Ben Mark Holzberg / CBS

“He was trying to seduce me,” Rapp added. “I don’t know if I would have used that language. But I was aware that he was trying to get with me sexually.”

In a tweet sent a day after the article was published, Spacey said he did not remember the alleged encounter, writing in part: “If I did behave then as he describes, I owe him the sincerest apology for what would have been deeply inappropriate drunken behavior, and I am sorry for the feelings he describes having carried with him all these years.”

Who is the judge?

District Judge Lewis A. Kaplan will oversee the trial. President Bill Clinton nominated Kaplan to the U.S. District Court in May 1994, and Kaplan was confirmed by the Senate in August of that year, according to the Federal Judicial Center.

Kaplan has presided over several notable court cases over the last quarter-century, including involving detainees at Guantanamo Bay and New York City organized crime. 

In recent years, Kaplan has been assigned to legal matters that made national news, including the case of E. Jean Carroll, the writer who accused former President Donald Trump of rape and sued him for defamation. (Trump has denied the allegation, and the case is ongoing.)

In a written order on June 6, Kaplan rejected Spacey’s bid to dismiss Rapp’s lawsuit and said the Oscar-winning actor must stand trial. In the order, the judge wrote in part that “the record ... raises a genuine issue of material fact as to whether Mr. Fowler acted ‘for the purpose of gratifying … sexual desire’” during the alleged encounter.

Kaplan allowed Rapp’s claims of battery and intentional infliction of emotional distress to go to trial, but he dismissed a common law sexual assault allegation, saying that claim was not covered by the Child Victims Act in New York state in 2019, which temporarily allowed people to make claims that might normally be barred by the statute of limitations. 

What are Spacey’s other legal woes?

In the United Kingdom, Spacey faces charges of sexually assaulting three men a decade or more ago. He pleaded not guilty in July during a hearing at London’s Central Criminal Court. He is expected to go on trial there starting June 6, 2023, according to The Associated Press.

The sexual misconduct incidents allegedly took place in the city from March 2005 to August 2008, as well as another incident in western England in April 2013. He has denied four counts of sexual assault and one count of causing a person to engage in penetrative sexual activity without consent.

In a separate matter, a Los Angeles judge ruled in August that Spacey and his production companies must pay the producers behind the Netflix series “House of Cards” close to $31 million because of losses incurred by his 2017 firing for what the streaming giant said was the sexual harassment of crew members, according to The AP.

Spacey, who starred on “House of Cards” as the dastardly President Frank Underwood, denies the harassment allegations.

Image: Kevin Spacey
Kevin Spacey as Frank Underwood on Netflix's "House of Cards."Nathaniel Bell / Netflix

Spacey was also accused of groping the son of a former Boston television news anchor at a bar in Massachusetts in 2016, but the charges were dropped in July 2019, with the district attorney citing the “unavailability of the complaining witness,” according to court documents.

Spacey, 63, was once one of Hollywood’s biggest stars. He won Oscars for “The Usual Suspects” and “American Beauty,” and he helped turn Netflix into a destination for high-quality original shows with “House of Cards.” 

But his acting career came to an abrupt halt after Rapp and other accusers came forward with allegations of sexual abuse or harassment in the early days of the #MeToo movement.

Rapp, 50, currently stars on the Paramount+ series “Star Trek: Discovery.” He rose to prominence after acting in the original Broadway production of “Rent” (later reprising his role in the 2005 film version) and appearing in Richard Linklater’s “Dazed and Confused.”