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    Friday, February 03, 2023

    Jury clears Kevin Spacey of allegations in civil sex abuse trial

    Actor Kevin Spacey, center, leaves the Daniel Patrick Moynihan Court House on Thursday in New York. A jury sided with Kevin Spacey on Thursday in one of the lawsuits that derailed the film star's career, finding he did not sexually abuse Anthony Rapp, then 14, while both were relatively unknown actors in Broadway plays in 1980s. (AP Photo/Andres Kudacki)

    New York — A Manhattan jury on Thursday determined Kevin Spacey should not be held liable for Anthony Rapp’s decades-old sexual misconduct allegations.

    The verdict came after less than two hours of deliberations following a two-week trial that included lengthy testimony from Rapp, 50, and Spacey, 63.

    Rapp’s $40 million lawsuit accused Spacey of making an unwanted sexual pass in 1986, when he was starting out on Broadway at age 14. He claimed Spacey, then 26, climbed on top of him and pressed his groin into his hip after a party at Spacey’s Upper East Side apartment.

    The Academy Award-winning actor, who vehemently denied ever being alone with Rapp, looked emotional when he learned the jury rejected the battery claim against him and said nothing as he left court.

    The jury did not know that more than 20 men have accused Spacey of sexual misconduct, including sexual assault and rape, or that he faces criminal charges connected to four men in the U.K. He denies all allegations.

    Spacey’s lawyer Jennifer Keller said she hopes the victory marks the beginning of her client’s vindication.

    “We’re very grateful that this American jury saw through these false allegations. What’s next is Mr. Spacey is going to be proven that he’s innocent of anything he’s been accused of. That there was no truth to any of the allegations,” Keller said outside federal court in Manhattan.

    “This was a highly intelligent, highly educated jury. I think 11 of the 12 were college grads. Most had graduate degrees. They’re very, very bright people and they could see right through this.”

    Rapp’s lawyers had no comment leaving court after the verdict. The “Rent” star’s attorney Richard Steigman had asked jurors not to disregard his client’s allegations on account of Spacey’s testimony, which he described in closings as “tailored as perfectly as it could be.”

    “Truth is messy — truth is complicated,” Steigman said in court. “Do you think you could make up a better story than that if that was your goal? … You think maybe you’d want to add on a little bit, that ‘he touched me, with his hands in certain ways,’ or a little worse.”

    When he testified, Rapp described the alleged encounter as “the most traumatic single event in my life” and said he came forward because he didn’t believe he was the only person victimized by Spacey.

    That answer prompted Judge Lewis Kaplan to prohibit Rapp’s lawyers from introducing accusations from other accusers, except for Andrew Holtzman, who testified that Spacey allegedly groped him in 1981. Kaplan tossed Rapp’s claim of assault and intentional infliction of emotional distress before and during the trial.

    Central to the case were discrepancies between Rapp’s memories of first meeting the “Usual Suspects” actor and those of his childhood friend, John Barrowman.

    Rapp and Spacey agreed they first met backstage when Rapp and Barrowman saw Spacey perform in “Long Day’s Journey into Night” alongside Jack Lemmon. The same year, Rapp was living in New York with his mother while he performed in “Precious Sons” on Broadway.

    They also agreed that Spacey took Rapp and Barrowman to dinner afterward and then to the Limelight nightclub. Rapp said he did not remember the trio going back to Spacey’s after the club. Spacey testified they did, which was corroborated by Barrowman in a taped deposition.

    Spacey told jurors that it was Barrowman he was sexually interested in and that they had a heated moment of flirtation on Spacey’s bed while Rapp used the bathroom. Rapp claimed his unwanted encounter with Spacey occurred several days later when he was invited to the apartment alone.

    As sexual assault allegations mounted in late 2017, Spacey’s hugely successful career derailed and he lost his role as Frank Underwood in the show “House of Cards.” In August, a California court ruled he must pay the show’s producer $31 million.

    When Rapp first spoke out about the accusations, Spacey issued an apologetic statement — in which he also came out as gay — and said he couldn’t remember it.

    Spacey’s said his publicists pressured him to respond empathetically to the allegations and believed anything less would earn him a reputation as a “victim blamer.”

    Keller asked the jury not to consider Rapp’s claim in the context of the #MeToo movement. She said the global reckoning with workplace sexual harassment and power imbalance “was necessary in a deeply misogynistic society,” but that Rapp had dishonestly tried to “hitch” a ride with “the Me Too wagon.”

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