Tuesday, 6 December, 2022

Kevin Spacey in court over 1980s sex misconduct claim

Kevin Spacey in court over 1980s sex misconduct claim

Five years after misconduct allegations ended his Hollywood career, Kevin Spacey appeared in a New York court Thursday to face fellow actor Anthony Rapp's accusation that the disgraced Oscar winner sexually assaulted Rapp in 1986 when he was a minor.

One of the first stars to be caught up in the global #MeToo reckoning over sexual abuse, the 63-year-old Spacey smiled as he sat in a blue suit, white shirt and light blue tie just steps away from his accuser in federal court in Manhattan.

"Star Trek: Discovery" star Rapp, now 50, filed a complaint in September 2020 against Spacey for advances and an alleged sexual assault at a party in Manhattan in 1986, when Rapp was 14 and Spacey was in his late 20s. He is seeking $40 million in damages.

The "House of Cards" actor, who built his worldwide fame since the 1980s in movies such as "The Usual Suspects" and "American Beauty," has always denied allegations of sexual abuse.

But during arguments in the case presided over by Judge Lewis Kaplan, Rapp's lawyer Peter Saghir told a jury of six men and six women that Spacey committed "unacceptable" acts against the teen Rapp "intentionally to satisfy the drive of his sexual desires."

The alleged assault against Rapp "never should have happened," Saghir continued. "He was 14 years old."

- Global fame -

Spacey, whose full name is Kevin Spacey Fowler, has disappeared from public view after becoming caught up in the early days of #MeToo.

The movement exploded in October 2017, when more than 80 women in the movie industry accused -- and ultimately brought down -- the previously untouchable producer Harvey Weinstein.

At the end of the month, Rapp accused Spacey for the first time, in great detail, in an interview with BuzzFeed News.

The next day, on Twitter, Spacey presented his "sincerest apology" to Rapp for any "deeply inappropriate drunken behavior," saying he did not recall the incident.

After a 2020 criminal charge of sexual assault was dismissed by a judge, Rapp filed a civil suit.

According to a court document, Rapp claims that during the 1986 party, Spacey lifted him up, and that his hand "grazed" his buttocks while doing so. Rapp claims Spacey then placed him back down on a bed and "briefly placed his own clothed body partially beside and partially across" the 14-year-old's.

During his testimony 35 years after the incident, Rapp agreed there had been "no kissing, no undressing, no reaching under clothes, and no sexualized statements or innuendo," during an incident that had lasted no more than two minutes.

In court though, Rapp's lawyer pressed the case, describing Spacey's behavior as "wrong and frankly unacceptable."

"This was not horseplay," Saghir said.

- 'An impartial jury' -

Spacey's lawyer Jennifer Keller told the jury, however, that such an assault "never happened at all."

Keller said that in the decades since the encounter at Spacey's apartment, Rapp "repeated the same false story (but) never repeated it to the police."

Rapp repeated it for "attention, sympathy" because he never became an international star, according to Spacey's lawyer.

Before the trial, Keller said Spacey would attend through its duration, expected to be less than two weeks.

"We look forward to his vindication by an impartial jury," Keller previously told AFP in an email.

If found guilty, Spacey faces significant damages.

Kaplan had dropped Rapp's initial charge of sexual assault, ruling it had been brought too late and was not covered by a New York state law on child protection, implemented in 2019.

Spacey has pleaded not guilty to charges of sexual assault of three men between March 2005 and April 2013 in Britain, and in 2019, charges against the actor of indecent assault and sexual assault were dropped in Massachusetts.