On Thursday, a federal jury in Manhattan found Kevin Spacey not guilty of battery. The actor Anthony Rapp had filed a lawsuit against Mr. Spacey, saying that in 1986, when Mr. Rapp was 14, Mr. Spacey climbed on top of him and made a sexual move.
In the early days of the #MeToo movement, when women started coming forward with accusations against famous men in the entertainment, political, and business worlds, Mr. Rapp’s claim was one of the most well-known. Mr. Spacey, the star of the political drama “House of Cards” and a well-known actor who had hosted the Tony Awards a few months earlier, quickly saw his career go downhill.
After Mr. Rapp’s story, which BuzzFeed News published in October 2017, more than a dozen other people said that Mr. Spacey had done something sexually wrong. He has pleaded not guilty to sexual assault charges in Britain, and one of his lawyers, Jennifer L. Keller, said Thursday outside the courthouse that he would be found innocent in all cases.
Mr. Rapp’s civil trial for the battery was based on what he said happened on a night in 1986 when he went to a party at Mr. Spacey’s New York apartment. At the time, both of them were in plays on Broadway. At the time, Mr. Spacey was 26 years old. He said that such a thing never happened.
An 11-person jury in the U.S. District Court in Manhattan decided in favor of Mr. Spacey after less than an hour and a half of deliberation. Mr. Spacey’s lawyers had grilled Mr. Rapp with questions that made him doubt his memory of events that were said to have happened more than 36 years ago.
After the verdict, Mr. Spacey stood up with tears in his eyes and hugged his lawyers. As he left the courthouse, he didn’t say anything, but Ms. Keller told reporters, “We’re just glad the jury saw the truth.”
“Bringing this lawsuit was always about shining a light,” the statement said. “It was part of a larger movement to stand up against all kinds of sexual violence.”
The Child Victims Act, a law in New York State, let Mr. Rapp bring his claim. He is an actor on “Star Trek: Discovery” and is best known for his original role in the musical “Rent.” The law had a short “look-back” period during which old claims that had already passed their deadline could be brought back.
The jury decided that there wasn’t enough evidence to prove that Mr. Spacey had touched one of Mr. Rapp’s “sexual or intimate” parts. This meant that the claim could not be brought back under the law. When Mr. Spacey picked him up, one of his hands “grazed” Mr. Rapp’s buttocks, he said in court.
Mr. Rapp’s lawyers showed testimony from three men who said he told them about meeting Mr. Spacey in the mid-1990s or before. The defense pointed out the inconsistencies and vagueness in his story. They also pointed out that Mr. Rapp, who is 50 years old, didn’t show any third-party proof of the gathering on the night he said the encounter took place. In the middle of the trial, Judge Lewis A. Kaplan threw out a claim that Mr. Spacey, who was 63 at the time, had intentionally caused emotional distress.
In her closing arguments, Ms. Keller said, “There is no proof that this happened, and there is plenty of proof that it didn’t.”
Both actors testified and gave different stories about what happened in the spring of 1986 when Mr. Rapp was a teenager in the play “Precious Sons” and Mr. Spacey was in “Long Day’s Journey Into Night.”
Mr. Rapp said in court that he went to his bedroom during Mr. Spacey’s party to watch late-night TV because he didn’t know any of the other guests. Mr. Rapp said that after the party was over, Mr. Spacey came up to him, picked him up, put him on the bed, and then climbed on top of him, putting his groin against Mr. Rapp’s hip.
“I knew something was wrong,” Mr. Rapp said, remembering how he felt like he was standing still.
He said in court that he was able to get out from under Mr. Spacey, who seemed drunk and get to the bathroom nearby. Before Mr. Rapp left the apartment, Mr. Spacey had asked him, “Are you sure you want to go?”
The defense said that Mr. Rapp made up the claim to get attention and boost his career, but he denied this.
Richard M. Steigman, a lawyer for Mr. Rapp, asked in his closing arguments, “Does it look like he’s enjoying the attention?” “He’s doing this to make Kevin Spacey answer for what he’s done.”
Even though Mr. Rapp apologised soon after making his claim public, Mr. Spacey testified that the encounter never happened, that he had never been alone with Mr. Rapp, and that he had not had a party at his apartment when Mr. Rapp said he did.
Mr. Spacey said he had gone out with John Barrowman, who was 19 at the time and was a friend of Mr. Rapp. Back at Mr. Spacey’s apartment, he said, when Mr. Rapp went to the bathroom, he gently pushed Mr. Barrowman back onto the bed. Mr. Spacey said that when Mr. Rapp came back, the two men sat up because they thought Mr. Rapp was too young to see them as a couple.
“I didn’t want Mr. Rapp to join us,” Mr. Spacey said in court.
Mr. Rapp said in court that they did not go back to the apartment the night they all went to the nightclub. He said it was the second time he had met Mr. Spacey. In a videotaped deposition, Mr. Barrowman, an actor best known for his role on the TV show “Doctor Who,” told the same story as Mr. Spacey about what happened that night.
Mr. Rapp said that his supposed meeting with Mr. Spacey was the scariest thing that had ever happened to him. Mr. Rapp said that when he later saw Mr. Spacey onscreen in movies like “American Beauty” and “Working Girl,” he was startled and sometimes felt like he was “poked with a cattle prod.”
During the trial, Mr. Spacey’s lawyers said that Mr. Rapp made up the accusation because he was jealous of Mr. Spacey’s career or angry that Mr. Spacey didn’t talk about his relationships with other men.
Mr. Rapp said that he didn’t have those reasons for coming forward and that he had come forward to get justice for himself. But during a long and tense cross-examination, he admitted that he might have been wrong about a few details, including that the alleged encounter took place in a separate bedroom in Mr. Spacey’s apartment.
Mr. Spacey’s lawyers also asked Mr. Rapp about how his story was similar to parts of “Precious Sons” that were staged. In the play, Ed Harris played Mr. Rapp’s father. When he picked up Mr. Rapp, he carried him like a groom carries a bride. During the play, Mr. Harris also climbed up on Mr. Rapp twice.
Mr. Rapp said that there was no link and that the staging had been done “carefully and with permission.”
Mr. Rapp’s lawyers used the fact that Mr. Spacey didn’t categorically deny the encounter in his first response to Mr. Rapp’s accusation as proof for their client.
In a statement he posted after the BuzzFeed article, Mr. Spacey said he had no memory of the encounter and added, “But if I did behave then as he describes, I owe him the sincerest apology for what would have been deeply inappropriate drunken behaviour.”
In his testimony, Mr. Spacey said that he regretted making that apology. He said that he did it because his advisors were afraid that if he denied the allegation outright, people would call him a “victim blamer.”
Mr. Spacey said in court, “I’ve learned a lesson, which is that you should never apologise for something you didn’t do.”
During the trial, Andy Holtzman said that Mr. Spacey had touched him inappropriately in an office in 1981, when Mr. Holtzman was 27 and Mr. Spacey was younger. Mr. Spacey said he didn’t do it. No other accusations were talked about in front of the jury, and Judge Kaplan told the jury not to pay attention to the two times Mr. Rapp mentioned other accusations against Mr. Spacey during his testimony.
Because of the sexual misconduct claims against him, Mr. Spacey, who has won two Oscars and a Tony, lost major roles and had to pay $31 million to the “House of Cards” studio for breaking a contract.
But the jury’s decision on Thursday is another win for Mr. Spacey in court. In Massachusetts, prosecutors dropped a sexual assault charge, and an anonymous accuser who had originally sued with Mr. Rapp decided not to continue his case after Judge Kaplan said the plaintiff would have to name himself in public.
“What’s next,” Ms. Keller said Thursday outside the courthouse, “is that Kevin Spacey will be cleared of all the charges against him.”
Stay tuned for more updates on Nog Magazine.