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Kevin Spacey found not liable in sex abuse suit brought by Anthony Rapp

Rapp alleged that Spacey climbed on top of him at a New York City party in 1986, when Rapp was 14 and Spacey was 26.
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The federal jury in Kevin Spacey's sexual abuse trial found that the Oscar-winning actor is not liable for battery against “Star Trek: Discovery star” Anthony Rapp.

The jury of five men and six women deliberated for just under 90 minutes Thursday afternoon. Rapp appeared stoic as the verdict was read, and his lawyers seemed dejected as they left the courthouse in downtown Manhattan.

Spacey dropped his head after the verdict was announced and then stood up to hug his lawyers.

“I’m very grateful to the jury for seeing through these false allegations,” Spacey's attorney Jennifer Keller said outside the courthouse. Spacey, flanked by bodyguards, did not say anything outside before hopping into a black SUV and driving off.

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."

Richard Steigman, the attorney for Rapp who delivered closing arguments Thursday, said in a statement: "Anthony told his truth in court. While we respect the jury’s verdict, nothing changes that."

In the early days of the #MeToo movement, Rapp was one of the most prominent people to level sexual misconduct allegations against Spacey, derailing his lauded career on screen and stage.

Rapp alleged that Spacey climbed on top of him at a party in New York City in 1986, when Rapp was 14 and Spacey was 26. Rapp, best known for his role in the musical “Rent,” testified that the alleged encounter was “the most traumatic single event” of his life.

Spacey flatly denied Rapp’s allegations, saying under oath that “they are not true.” His lawyers argued that Rapp “created a story” in large part because he was jealous of their client’s success in the entertainment industry.

Kevin Spacey inside United Sates District Court for the Southern District of New York on Oct. 20, 2022 in New York.
Kevin Spacey inside U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York on Oct. 20, 2022.Christine Cornell

In closing arguments earlier on Thursday, lawyers for the actors presented dramatically divergent versions of events.

Steigman suggested that Spacey put on a performance for the jury on the witness stand and insisted that, decades later, his client remains traumatized because of the alleged encounter.

Keller dismissed Rapp’s claims as falsehoods.

Emotional testimonies

The two men delivered tearful testimonies on the witness stand.

Rapp fought back tears and spoke with a pained expression as he recalled the details of the alleged encounter he described as “incredibly frightening and very alarming.” He testified that he felt inspired to go public with his claims in the fall of 2017.

“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, for his part, repeatedly broke down crying during his testimony. In a quavering voice, he told jurors about his “humiliating and terrifying” upbringing as the son of a man he described as a “white supremacist and neo-Nazi.”

Kevin Spacey inside United Sates District Court for the Southern District of New York on Oct. 20, 2022 in New York.
Kevin Spacey inside U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York on Oct. 20, 2022.Christine Cornell

“I have never talked about these things publicly, ever,” he said.

Rapp filed a lawsuit against Spacey in 2020 based on three claims: assault, battery and intentional infliction of emotional distress.

Judge Lewis A. Kaplan dismissed the assault claim before the trial started, saying it was not covered by the New York’s Child Victims Act of 2019, which temporarily allowed people to make claims that would have normally been blocked by the statute of limitations.

Kaplan tossed out Rapp’s claim of emotional distress on the sixth day of the trial, saying in part that it “repeats and re-alleges” the allegation of battery. 

Rapp, who claimed he shared his experience with friends over the years, first publicly detailed his allegations in an article published by BuzzFeed News on Oct. 29, 2017.

Spacey's response to allegations

In a statement on Twitter the next day, Spacey said he did not recall the alleged incident but apologized to Rapp for “what would have been deeply inappropriate drunken behavior.” He then came out, writing in part: “I choose now to live as a gay man.”

In his testimony, Spacey said he regretted that statement, explaining that he now believes he should not have apologized for something he insists he did not do.

“I’ve learned a lesson: Never apologize for something you didn’t do,” Spacey told the jurors. “I regret my entire statement.”

He said his publicity team encouraged him to take the allegations “seriously” because they were concerned about permanent damage to his career and reputation. In turn, he chose to take them “seriously but not factually.”

“I had no belief that this had happened,” Spacey said emphatically.

Spacey also lamented that he used the statement as an opportunity to come out to the general public.

“I would have never done anything to hurt the gay community,” he said, as tears welled up in his eyes. He explained that he was criticized for appearing to conflate his sexual orientation with the allegations: “It was wrong, it was really bad, and I’m deeply sorry.”

Dueling accounts of events

Rapp and Spacey agreed they met each other sometime in April 1986, when they were acting in Broadway shows — Rapp with Ed Harris in “Precious Sons,” Spacey with Jack Lemmon in a production of “Long Day’s Journey into Night.”

The two saw each other again during a casual gathering in Lemmon’s dressing room sometime that May. That night, Spacey took Rapp and Rapp’s friend John Barrowman to a restaurant and a nightclub. Spacey testified that he felt attracted to Barrowman, who was 19 at the time.

“I was captivated by John Barrowman,” Spacey said. 

Spacey testified that he invited Rapp and Barrowman back to his apartment on Manhattan’s Upper East Side after the club to introduce them to his dog and show them his view of the city. He said that he and Barrowman had a brief “flirtatious and playful moment” on a bed that was cut short because Rapp was nearby.

Rapp alleged that sometime after that evening, Spacey invited him to a party at his apartment. Rapp testified that he did not recognize anyone at the party, so he went into a bedroom to watch television. 

He testified that at some point, an apparently drunken Spacey entered the bedroom, lifted him up, placed him on a bed and rested his full weight on top of him.

Spacey forcefully pushed back on that account of events, saying in his testimony that he never invited Rapp to a party or even spoke to him again after their evening with Barrowman, a fellow actor who is now best known in the United Kingdom for his role on the show “Doctor Who.”

Actor Anthony Rapp, right, and his partner Ken Ithiphol, arrive at federal court in New York on Oct. 19, 2022.
Anthony Rapp, right, and his partner Ken Ithiphol, arrive at federal court in New York on Wednesday. Angela Weiss / AFP - Getty Images

Spacey’s lawyers introduced evidence they said supported their client’s denial, including a floor plan showing that at the time of the alleged incident, he lived in a studio apartment that did not have a bedroom.

Jennifer Keller, one of Spacey’s lawyers, sought to convince the jury that Rapp was bitter not only about Spacey’s success in Hollywood, but also about being the “third wheel” during the evening with Barrowman. Rapp rejected that suggestion.

Rapp, 50, is a series regular on the Paramount+ series “Star Trek: Discovery” and has appeared in films such as “Dazed and Confused” and “A Beautiful Mind.” Spacey, 63, won Oscars for his performances in “The Usual Suspects” and “American Beauty,” and earned a Tony for the play “Lost in Yonkers.”

Spacey played a fictional president on the Netflix drama “House of Cards” before a wave of sexual misconduct allegations in 2017 led to his firing from the show and brought an abrupt halt to his celebrated Hollywood career.

Additional legal issues

Spacey’s legal woes do not end in New York.

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

Kaplan, the judge in Spacey’s civil trial, did not allow Rapp’s lawyers to talk about the U.K. case. However, Rapp’s lawyers got a chance to question Andy Holtzman, a former employee of Manhattan’s Public Theater, who alleges that Spacey assaulted him there in 1981.

Spacey has denied that allegation.

Separately, a Los Angeles judge ruled in August that Spacey and his companies must pay the producers behind “House of Cards” nearly $31 million because of losses incurred after he was fired for alleged sexual harassment of crew members, according to court documents.